I sure hope this is a parody:

SnapScouts Keep America Safe!

Want to earn tons of cool badges and prizes while competing with you friends to see who can be the best American? Download the SnapScouts app for your Android phone (iPhone app coming soon) and get started patrolling your neighborhood.

It’s up to you to keep America safe! If you see something suspicious, Snap it! If you see someone who doesn’t belong, Snap it! Not sure if someone or something is suspicious? Snap it anyway!

Play with your friends and family to see who can get the best prizes. Join the SnapScouts today!

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 2:11 PM55 Comments


HJohn May 10, 2010 2:19 PM

@”I sure hope this is a parody”

Pretty sad that its hard to tell when people are being serious or when they are poking fun, isn’t it?

Even sadder are the people who will take it seriously, parody or not.

Andre LePlume May 10, 2010 2:26 PM

“MiniTru, LLC” makes me think it’s a parody. And a damn good one.

shadowfirebird May 10, 2010 2:27 PM

In the UK, they’d be arrested. Like the kid who as taking pictures at his local train station, for a school project…

Steve May 10, 2010 2:27 PM

“Created in 2008 by George Parsons and Winston O’Brien . . . ”

I believe each of those first and last names is from Nineteen Eighty-Four (with George referring to the author).

Paul May 10, 2010 2:33 PM

Coming soon: SnapScout Reports!

Want to keep an eye on what people are saying about you? With SnapScout Reports, you can monitor the anonymous SnapScout reports before they go to the authorities. And if you don’t agree with the report, you can negotiate with the reporter to explain your actions.

We’re testing SnapScout Reports soon, so stay tuned for a free trial offer!

It’s obviously started as a parody, as the co-founder names beat you over the head with. There’s possibly some earning potential there, though, if they hold the course and keep a straight face. But then, the monetization method might fall afoul of laws against blackmail.

The Mailman May 10, 2010 2:38 PM

To me, the challenge to see “who can be the best American” is what tells me that it’s a parody. Also, the drawing on the front page seems to be a reference to both The Simpsons and Family Guy.

Finally, like Steve said in the comments before me, the creators’ names are taken from Orwell’s 1984.

Paul May 10, 2010 2:39 PM

Huh, only the last paragraph contains my own words. The rest is from the SnapScout site.

Checking their FAQ, they do claim to be a non-profit LLC. Also contained are gems such as:

“Q: Aren’t you concerned that this will lead to profiling?

A: SnapScouts was designed and developed for children to use, before they form stereotypes of other people. They’re the perfect reporters, unbiased and unprejudiced by media concepts.”

They also claim 600 reported crimes in Indonesia, Germany, and England.

Travis May 10, 2010 2:40 PM

The whole site has a “1984” theme. The names of the creators, the name of the company and the theme of children being rewarded for reporting everything they possibly can.

Jeff Craig May 10, 2010 2:58 PM

I downloaded the APK, and just looking at the images embedded in it (not to mention that FAQ), I’m about 90% sure this is fake. One of the images actually contains the string ‘++GOOD’, one of the more obvious 1984 references.

I’m not sure I can bring myself to install the app on my phone, though.

Muffin May 10, 2010 3:15 PM

“competing with you friends to see who can be the best American”

That’s GOT to be a parody, even by the USA’s standards. 🙂

rmf May 10, 2010 3:26 PM

Remember, just because they weren’t charged doesn’t mean they weren’t guilty. Stay vigilant!

peri May 10, 2010 3:31 PM

The whois information suggests this is a hoax: the domain was registered by a at the end of April 2010. But as Steve pointed out, the site claims to have started out in 2008.

Also their “about us” section suggests it is a great hoax because they claim to be “Using a transparent, open source approach.” That is not exactly consistent with the Jr. Americans Secret Police. 😉

Billy May 10, 2010 3:35 PM

The next time I bike past an illegally parked police car lurking in the shadows to prey on people who don’t come to a complete stop I’m installing this app, and posting them to SnapScouts.

peri May 10, 2010 3:41 PM

This is certainly a very well done hoax! I downloaded the .apk file, renamed it to .zip and unzipped it. main.jpg is in res/drawable-hdpi and has a cartoon picture and caption that reads: “Hi, I ‘m Georgie O’Well! I’m a snapscout! Nothing gets by Me! Wanna join?”

Clive Robinson May 10, 2010 3:48 PM

It appears highly likley it is a parody.

But let’s assume for a minute it’s not….

In the UK a few years ago they where banking on about suspicious males with bags and beards and the Met Police actually gave a phone number to call.

They ran this campaign shortly before Xmas and as I observed “at this time of year there are a lot of males with bags and beards hanging around and behaving suspiciously”. But also it’s a “self denial of service”.

So if it where not a parody it would not be the first “dumb 455” campaign…

GreenSquirrel May 10, 2010 4:09 PM

WTF – must be a parody.

Isnt it part of the plot of V or similar invasion series?

Jan Hertsens May 10, 2010 5:01 PM

Can I call “Poe’s law” on this now?

Or do I really need to wait for somebody to yell “think of the children” and proclaim it as a good idea? Weirder stuff happens every day…

BF Skinner May 10, 2010 5:18 PM

Unfortunately I don’t believe that’s the right response Bruce.

@Hjohn “Even sadder are the people who will take it seriously, parody or not.”

Saddest yet is that even if it IS now parody, someone’s gonna say “Hey that’s Keen! Let’s make it THE LAW.”

There are among our fellow humans those sad individuals who don’t have a sense of humor. They don’t get it. They never have and don’t see themselves as disabled in any way as result. They are sad pitiful types but they do seem to end up in positions of influence.

Jen May 10, 2010 5:28 PM

Parody. Downloading and unzipping the APK will provide a small amount of entertainment. I installed it on an emulator but it’s not a full-fledged app. So, no further entertainment there.

bkd69 May 10, 2010 11:34 PM

The things that hint towards parody:

The final bullet point about multi crime tagging. That’s a feature and language that would generally come from the subcultures that subscribe to rational security (eg bOINGbOING, et al).
The about us section with its references to minitru, bragging about using open source, and the Creative Commons. If it were true, then they would be bragging about their patented sooper seekrit proprietary technology that allows them to xxx.

Honorable mention goes to the artwork, which is just a tech too hip (it reminds me of Randy Milholland), and the fact that it’s on Android, and not iPhone (yet. though that would be a fascinating app approval story).

JBB May 11, 2010 4:51 AM

This is why I always wear a mask in public. Well…This and the screaming children.

BF Skinner May 11, 2010 6:17 AM

@JBB “Well…this and the screaming children”

Yes. I enjoy scaring the little dears into screams too. Where do you get your masks?

damjanev May 11, 2010 7:19 AM

Trying to access the site from my company’s network i get:

This Websense category is filtered: Potentially Damaging Content. Sites in this category may pose a security threat to network resources or private information, and are blocked by your organization.


peri May 11, 2010 12:23 PM

@kevinm: “SS badges to the SnapScouts”

Hilarious and subtle observation!

@Jan Hertsens, Tkil: “Poe’s Law”

I think I “Georgie O’Well” is winkie enough for me!

Dave May 11, 2010 12:54 PM

So there I was filling up my car with fuel, and there before me was a big billboard poster with a picture of a typical UK town centre complete with mothers and babies in the frame. The poster was paid for by the British Transport Police.

And it said, and I quote verbatim:

“A bomb won’t go off here because weeks before a shopper reported someone studying the CCTV cameras.”

then it went on:

“Don’t rely on others. If you suspect it, report it.” “Confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline Call 0800 789 321”

I was so horrified by it, that I took a picture of it. This was March 2009 in Portsmouth.

If this SanpScouts thing is a hoax, I can well believe that an application similar to it will appear that won’t be.

Mutiny32 May 11, 2010 1:18 PM

From the about XML file:

“It could be a neighbor, a friend…even your own parents! When you spot them doing something bad, take a picture of them. Send us their name and what they were doing. That’s it! No one is safe! Think you got what it takes? If you get in, you can win special badges, like the double plus good ‘Prole’ badge! Good luck! -Georgie”

peri May 11, 2010 4:50 PM

I normally hate reality TV but I would be glued to a channel that watched the watches…

I would also like to see FINK databases that work just like sex offender databases!

Jaws May 12, 2010 5:20 AM

remembers me of the TV ad from Running Man: “don’t forget, double rewards for reporting a family member”

alreadyonthelist May 12, 2010 6:43 AM

This is too much like what is really going on with domestic spying in this country.
Observers get paid for photos of targets, even driving past with cellphone on video mode. Its creepy as all get out walking to your mailbox and having a car slow down and seeing the camera pointed at you.

Curt Sampson June 2, 2010 7:01 AM

The first link you posted is about quite a different thing, though it may seem similar on the surface. While most citizens are not very good judges of “suspicious activity,” most are perfectly competent to determine whether a wall is covered with graffiti or there’s a pothole in the road. Further, in this case they’re reporting things, not people.

Paul October 4, 2010 1:49 PM

unfortunately this is not a parody is the site and its a real app for the android

Gary October 5, 2010 5:08 PM

SnapScouts is an insane move on our Governments part to entice children to put themselves in harm’s way for what, A BADGE. Let the children do things children should be doing and leave them alone. It’s sick that you use them as spies and it don’t matter who it is their spying on it’s just wrong

Matt October 6, 2010 2:41 AM

I’m pretty sure this SnapScouts is a satirical hoax. But what ISN’T a hoax is “FourSquare”, and other similar apps. Foursquare turns tracking and reporting your whereabouts to a central authority into a game on facebook where you earn badges and and 3 different levels to become a “superuser”. REDICULOUS right?

And maybe this is reading too deep in it but it suggests to me a basic foundational principle behind masonic (cabalistic “four” – “square”?) or occult/initiation cult structure, rewarding some kind of service or obedience with various “badges” and levels of status. Whether or not that is relevant, it is shady to me. Why would you want to tell everyone where you are? What if your house gets robbed?

William October 6, 2010 6:15 AM

And dont I feel foolish. Shot off a very angry email before noticing all the nice 1984 stuff. Doh!

rpauli October 6, 2010 12:15 PM

Sorry, it is probably not a hoax. They have a FAQ…

Q: So who’s making money off this?
A: In short, no one. MiniTru, LLC. is a non-profit organization created to find modern solutions to the timeless threats to democracy and freedom. We are funded by a variety of organizations, including but not limited to CCTV UK, Minutemen Civil Defense Corps, XE, and the Centre for Defence and International Security Studies.

Eric October 7, 2010 1:20 PM

I downloaded the app since I have an Android powered phone. The app is titled “Georgie” when you intall it and is not functional. All the screen shows is an image similar to the one on the snapscouts page…the image on the depicted phone. The only difference is in the little voice bubble it states “Hi, I’m Georgie O’Well. I’m a snapscout! Nothing gets by me! Wanna join?”. There are no buttons menu options or anything for the app that I can find. You can snap a photo or report anything.

Dennis October 11, 2010 8:27 AM

And what happens when the first kid that thinks this is cool gets hurt or killed because they were snapping something that someone doesn’t want them to see? Parody or not, it’s dangerous in more ways than one. Not to mention it is a bit reminiscent of the Hitler Youth.

Wickey October 16, 2010 1:49 PM

MiniTru LLC = Ministy of Truth

Georgie O’Well = George Orwell

Minuteman Civil Defense Coprs = Now defunct AZ border-protection group

XE = Xe Services LLC aka Blackwater Worldwide

CDISS = Centre for Defence and International Security Studies: a British defense and security think tank

CCTV UK = a reference to the UK’s controversial closed circuit camera system

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