Facebook cheats, and animals pay the price

UPDATE (3/31/18)

Until Google develops a better system of communicating to Android app users about the various ways that apps interact with a user’s list of contacts, Animal Help Now is pulling its “Add Helper to Contacts” functionality from its Android app. We are doing this because a few of our users have expressed concerns about Animal Help Now invading their privacy.

This, despite the fact that Animal Help Now cannot access their contact lists. All we can do is add a helper to their contacts – at their behest.

** The pre-digital analogy: Animal Help Now tells you about a wildlife rehabilitator. You ask, do you have their card? We hand it to you. **

We are saddened that governments, for-profit corporations and even some non-profit corporations have violated the public trust, that public trust in general is evidently eroding as we move further into the 21st Century and that these dynamics together are making the world even more dangerous for the most vulnerable in our society, including our animal friends.

** The pre-digital, post-truth analogy: Animal Help Now tells you about a wildlife rehabilitator. You say, I’d ask for their card, but then you’d insist on seeing my Rolodex. **

It’s enough to drive us mad.

Here is the letter we are submitting to Google (purveyor of Android) in response to this debacle:

Our nonprofit organization helps people with wildlife emergencies find the nearest professional help. We recently added a feature that allows users to add a wildlife emergency professional’s contact information to their contacts.
We are now hearing from the public that they will not download our app because Google is telling them we need “Access” to their contacts and they do not trust that we will not violate this access. If Google were to make it very clear that the access we need is “write only” and that we cannot see the users’ contacts, we likely would not be losing users and users’ trust.
Further, if Google were to allow a person to download the app while exempting the contact access, this would also solve the problem.
As it is, the existing solution is untenable and, unfortunately, in this age of distrust, indefensible. One must, as has been said, avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

ORIGINAL BLOG POST (3/30/18)

Animal Help Now received an email today from Mike M, who wrote: I like your app, but I won’t be using it any longer or recommending it because the latest upgrade wants to access my contacts. Respect user privacy.

I can see where Mike is coming from. He went to update his Android app and saw that we now request access to his contacts.

After all, why on earth would the Animal Help Now Android app need access to Mike’s contacts? Before your imagination gets on a plane to Russia, allow me to give you the quick and complete answer.

The Animal Help Now app needs access to Mike’s contacts because we now offer a new feature that allows Mike to save a wildlife rehabilitator’s contact information in his contact list (see image).

Image showing new feature

This does not mean we can see Mike’s contacts. We cannot.

Let me say that again: We cannot see Mike’s contacts.

We added the “Add Helper to Contacts” functionality because we want to make it as easy as possible for Mike and our other users to contact his area wildlife rehabilitators today, tomorrow, anytime.

That’s what we do.

Unfortunately, Android doesn’t give us the opportunity to explain that we are not asking for permission to access our users’ contacts, unless the person downloading the app happens to read the “What’s New” section in our store.

What’s worse, it’s an all-or-nothing thing. If Mike doesn’t want Animal Help Now to be able to his contacts helpers of his choosing, Android won’t let him upgrade his app.

Thankfully, Apple takes a more reasonable approach. The company doesn’t even ask for your permission to let Animal Help Now add a helper to your contacts until you try to do so, and it certainly doesn’t require you to give us this access before downloading our app.

Recent events have heightened privacy concerns. Facebook and so many others have shown themselves to be untrustworthy. As a result, people seem warier than ever about others’ intentions.

But let’s be clear: The difference between Facebook’s interest in your personal data and Animal Help Now’s interest in your personal data is as great as the difference in the two organizations’ revenue. Animal Help Now not only has no interest in your contacts, our privacy policy is clearly written to protect you. We are not here to make money. We are here to serve you and save animal lives.

World Wildlife Day: Ooh! Call on me! Call on me!

Today is World Wildlife Day, as designated in 2013 by the United Nations, and all of us are encouraged to do one thing today to help the world’s wildlife.

Not sure what that might be? Well, we at Animal Help Now have a few suggestions:

  • Eat a plant-based dinner tonight, preferably one sourced close to home. The ways in which our diets impact wildlife are too broad and too complex to go into here. We hope it suffices to say that feeding plants to animals so that we can eat those animals requires a whole lot more land than eating plants. The less land we use to feed ourselves, the more land will be available for wildlife. Recipes
  • Order “treatments” for any windows at your home or office that birds mistake for flight paths. You’ll find options here.
  • Download the free Animal Help Now app so you will be prepared to assist the next injured or distressed wild animal you encounter. iPhone | iPad | Android

This year’s theme is “Listen to the Young Voices”, a great reminder about not only the importance of youth – but also the importance of respecting youth (and future generations) – as we work together to make the planet a better place for everyone.

Happy World Wildlife Day!World Wildlife Day

Women’s March Brings Love and Hope

The Denver Women's March, in Animal Help Now's backyard.
The Denver Women’s March, in Animal Help Now’s backyard.

We stand in unity with the Women’s March today – and each day forward as we move into these increasingly challenging times.

With the current power structure in the United States – that is to say, with the federal government working hand in glove with corporate America and with media no longer playing a watchdog role – Animal Help Now’s work promises to become more difficult in the years ahead.

Even so-called progressive governments in the United States have tended to overlook the needs of animals. We see no signs from the White House or Congress that animals will benefit under the new administration. In fact, recent legislative efforts, recently published policy statements and indeed a simple look at the power roster in Washington leave the animal advocate wondering who exactly is representing her.

Still, we are undeterred. And today, buoyed by outpourings of love and passion across the globe and inspired by the wisdom and creativity and community demonstrated at these magnificent marches, we have new hope that the world can move toward greater justice rather than less.

May those common values ascribed to the feminine – empathy, love, radiance and generosity – hold the day, and may the strength, endurance and determination demonstrated by our sisters (and brothers) today and in all times past serve as both model and motivation as we move into and through the long struggle ahead.

Denver march participant

A village, indeed. Or, say, an aspen stand.

A certain presidential candidate was certainly right when she said it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a village to do a lot of things, including raising a nonprofit.

If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to give you a quick tour of Animal Help Now’s village.Holland & Hart logo

Let’s start with that smart-looking bunch heading into the office building. That’s the Holland & Hart team. They give our nonprofit pro bono advice on legal matters. Lots of it.

And that guy with the glasses, over there by the barn. That’s Frank Vernon. Genius. Nice guy, too. Created our iPhone app from scratch, and maintains it to this day. Never charged us a dime. The barn? Well, that belongs to Frank and his wife Dorothy. They let us pack in there now and then for a little dancing and downtime.

Frank didn’t do the app singlehandedly, of course. He had the help of a bunch of folks here in the village. Elena Rizzo, for one. She signed on as an Animal Help Now volunteer in the early days and worked her way up to director of research, a nearly full-time, paid position.

Here's one of the corporate partners logos Karl produced for us.
Example of Karl’s work.

Karl Hirschmann did the graphics for the user interface. Karl and his wife Beth are raising two kids, and at the time we brought him on Karl was paying big rent for his little shop off Pearl, so he couldn’t afford to donate his time. But he does give us half off. Sometimes, I think, much more. You do like our logo, I hope.

Speaking of art. Andrea Metzger. Good heavens, how long has she been devoting her spare time to the animals? Andrea always comes through for us with compelling, elegant images in a style all her own. There’s this, for example:

dolphin rescue

There are so many artists in this village. Have you seen Kevin’s work at FernLakePhotography.com? Kevin has been quite generous with Animal Help Now, providing virtually unlimited access to his catalog. He hasn’t yet reached the fame of a Tom Mangelsen. Not sure he wants to. Tom’s in the village, too, though – did you know?

Hometown boys Dan Ziskin and Bob Rose have played a big part getting us to the present. They were there at the start. Founders. Board members. Their technical expertise has been indispensable. Brian Field has been with us forever, too. He’s worn a lot of hats here. All three of these guys have integrity, drive, and talent in equal and large measures.

aspen stand
Individuals, united like aspen. Click image to see our staff list. (Thanks to Kevin for the image : )

All told we have about 35 people working for the group right now. Seven are part-time and paid. The other 28 are volunteers. Our volunteers alone put in hundreds of hours every month.

My mom, bless her soul, wrote generous checks that were necessary to get AHNow off the ground and through the lean times. Scott Keating wrote some, too, as did David Worthington and Julie Staggers. Ted Wood-Prince and Dara Shalette are with us year in and year out. The Bosack and Kruger Foundation has steadfastly funded AHNow through these formative years.

So many in this village have helped us financially. Donations big and small. And to be sure, there are two ways to use those terms. We recognize that $20 can be a big donation. Some of you know one of the village’s animal heroes, Bernadette. Bernadette gives generously to a dozen or more causes every fall. A few years back she wrote the whole check just to us.

bielawski
Jill’s good with words, and she’s a dedicated animal advocate, to boot.

The list of good neighbors goes on and on. (I’ll stop soon.) Karen Dawson makes sure our finances are in order. Jill Bielawski makes sure our grammar’s good.

Leslie Irvine teaches at the university down the road. Big friend of animals. Writes books about them! Leslie has provided us with a good dozen or so interns through the years. A few of those students have absolutely inspired us older folks with their brilliance, goodness, and work ethic. I can say they’ve bolstered my hope for the future. Their parents must be proud.

Let him suffer and die? No!
Dr. Klem estimates a billion birds die and another billion are injured from window strikes each year in the United States. That’s 30 injuries per second. We have a lot of work to do.

That group of thinkers there in the coffee shop – that’s our advisory council. They’ve all signed on in just the past six months. Our business experts, Alan and Tania. Our wildlife folks, Donna and Ann-Elizabeth and Dr. Reading. Oh, and Dr. Klem, of course. He’s the country’s – maybe the world’s – leading expert on bird window strikes.

Down the street there’s PC’s Pantry for Dogs and Cats. Marylee, Colleen, and the crew have hosted AHNow donation containers on their counters for years and years. Whenever Colleen sees a loose bill on the ground with no one to claim it, she drops it in.

Our village isn’t geographically constrained. Our vol Danielle is going to school at Cornell. She makes time every week to work on improving our Google search results. Successfully, I’ll add. Neeharika is from the Bay Area. She and the analysis team are helping us better understand how people use our program. And there’s Katherine in Texas, Kelly in Wisconsin, Glenn in New Mexico, … It occurs to me I’m not even certain where a few of our villagers reside.

Our peers and partners are integral to our success, too. The folks at the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council take our calls. The Dallas/Fort Worth Wildlife Coalition picks up, too. We’re making friends with animal emergency professionals all over the country. You can’t do what we do without those relationships.

We’re certainly humbled by the support we get from our community. I like to think people recognize that we’re just as committed to our village as they are. It’s pretty obvious they appreciate that the little nonprofit they’re nurturing already is saving lives and spreading love and hope and compassion all over the land. : )