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Women’s Safety in Mind, Govt Orders All New Cell Phones to Have Panic Button and GPS

Today, in India, we have a number of apps that have virtual panic buttons, sparked by the rising rates of crimes against women. But soon, nearly all mobile phones in India will have these panic buttons in-built, according to a new government order.

On April 22, an order was issued stating that all mobile phones sold in India are mandated to have a system of panic button and emergency calling. For feature phones (basic phones that don’t have touch screens) the panic button is to be activated by pressing the number 5 or 9 on the phone’s keypad. New phones manufactured within India must have this feature in-built.

Similarly, smartphones too must have an emergency call button featured in the phone. This can be activated by either pressing the button for more than a certain amount of time, so as to invoke a call, or even pressing the on-off button three times in quick succession.

The notification, which comes under the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1993, states that this becomes mandatory with effect from January 1, 2017.

panic button
Representational image

Further, it states that all phones – including feature phones – must be GPS-enabled.”With effect from January 1, 2018, no mobile phone handset manufactured company shall sell the new mobile phone handset in India without the facility of identifying the location through Satellite based GPS,” said the notification. This seals the deal on ensuring that citizens, especially women, are always tracked by their loved ones in case of an emergency.

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The government had first hinted in 2015 that they would be putting out such a rule, but now it has finally issued a formal notice. “Technology is meant to make human life better, and for what better purpose to use it than for the security of women,” said telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to Hindustan Times, “I have taken a decision that from January 1, 2017, no cell phone can be sold without these provisions.”

We expect more details – such as who is alerted through the panic button, what happens to existing phones, and whether this is mandatory for imported phones – to come out soon, once the government begins preparing for its implementation.

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