The Dark Side Of Field Services?

As cloud services and mobile applications have evolved over the years, field services have undergone a big transformation. Overwhelmingly, this technology is helping improve life for customers and businesses – but a controversial new app (which uses many of the features of modern field service software) is raising questions.


Field services are those services that a business offers which are ‘off site’ from their main headquarters or office. These services typically involve dispatching staff to sites or client locations to conduct work.

Modern solutions including Zuper offer an ‘uberised’ experience where it’s possible to see the current status of the staff and what their current location is. It’s also possible to communicate with the agent by sending messages or images to facilitate the work.

Once the job is complete, the customer can provide instant feedback about the job, often providing a rating for the work and the service agent. This is a process that anyone who has ordered an uber (or in my case, a burger) will be familiar with.


A new app, Citizen, uses many of the core concepts of field services management applications leading some to call it ‘the Uber of field journalism’. It shares details of police alerts, displaying the locations of active crime and crisis locations on a live map – users of the app are encouraged to go to the locations and use the application to record and share video of the incident.

Citizen says that it is working to create a “personal safety network” and a “force for good” in the world. It cites a range of examples where the use of the app has resulted in a positive outcome, including locating a missing 10 year old girl and saving an Uber driver from a shooting.

Citizen is empowering its users as “Freelance field reporters” and has offered to pay people up to $25 per hour for their work, according to a report from Metro.

Given this, it’s easy to see why Citizen are using the modern field services management model. It means that people can see – in real time – where the ‘jobs’ are and the closest and most suited people for the job can respond and capture footage.

Black Mirror?

There have, however, been lots of criticisms drawn by this application, too. Many people draw parallels to the show ‘Black Mirror’, which often masterfully paints a realistic picture of the dark side of technology.

In one such episode, “White Bear”, a woman is harassed by hunters. Fearful for her life, she pleads with onlookers to help her, but they simply ignore her and film her with their phones. The episode is a commentary on the “bystander effect”.

The bystander effect occurs where people feel a diminished sense of duty to intervene when there are other people present. The idea being that everyone assumes that someone else will step up. This effect is also prevalent with phones. This is because the person recording the situation feels that documenting the event is their responsibility.

An even darker side?  

Citizen has been criticised for creating ‘witch hunts’ – for example, they placed a $30,000 bounty on a suspected arsonist. Later, after the police arrested the real perpetrator, Citizen were forced to issue an official apology. Even more dangerous behaviour than the ‘bystander effect’ is the threat of vigilante justice.

There is a fear that by using a community app like this, people will start taking justice into their own hands, hunting down criminals and forming up digital ‘mobs’. As with any vigilante justice, the danger comes from people acting on their internal bias or acting on belief, rather than on evidence. 

What do you think? Is this modern field services solution a good way to keep people safe and hold people to account by dispatching local field reporters to the right place at the right time? Or is this a bit too ‘Black Mirror’ and will result in onlookers filming harrowing situations for internet points, and the rise of vigilante justice?

Want to learn more about Field Services Managment?

If you’d like to learn more about field services management software and what it can do to improve your business and delight your customers, check out Zuper!

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