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Hollaback Allows Women to Shame Street Harassers via Smartphones

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on June 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you're a woman, you've probably experienced some form of street sexual harassment. Catcalls, obscene comments, or even an inappropriate compliment can all make a person's day uncomfortable.

Now some women have decided to stop taking these comments lying down. Simply install the Hollaback application on your smartphone, and you have what Good Technology calls an equivalent to a digital "rape whistle."

Users can report harassment incidents in real time, and can use a map function to display where the incident occurred. Users can even "hollaback" with a photo of the alleged harasser.

"Hollabacks" are shared. Users can upload their story to the Hollaback community. It's also multi-functional. It gives those who have been harassed the ability to vent their frustrations. It can also allow police to easily identify spots where harassment frequently occurs.

One concern could be whether or not the app could potentially be infringing on a person's right to privacy. And there is potential for abuse, as users are the ones who submit photos and stories of events. It's unclear whether or not each photo or story will be vetted for accuracy. If false statements are published via the app, it's possible that it some stories can even amount to defamation.

At the same time, perhaps the benefits of the application could outweigh the negatives. If the program is used properly, it can help victims of sexual harassment get through their experience by sharing their troubles with a supportive community.

While it's unlikely that perpetrators would actually voluntarily consent to have their photo taken and posted using on Hollaback's interface, it might not even be necessary. There is likely little invasion of privacy that can occur if photos are taken on a public street.

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