Penn Guardian Is Watching You


Nov | Dec 2010 contents
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Making History campaign reaches $2.85 billion

Northwestern’s J. Larry Jameson named new medical dean and EVP

Thouron program marks 50 years

Synthetic life “not a novel thing” says Bioethics Commission witness

Convocation: Passion and purpose drew Penn to Class of 2014

Silicon Valley moves east for Supernova conference

Ei-ichi Negishi Gr’63 shares Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Screening for cancer with vinegar and a cellphone camera

Penn Guardian offers GPS location in emergencies

A grandson’s memories of Eisenhower in retirement

Wharton model for movies gives “formulaic” a whole new meaning

Football-induced brain injuries possibly linked to student’s suicide


Bagnoli becomes Penn’s winningest football coach


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It’s the rare person today who doesn’t carry a cellphone.

At least that’s what Penn’s Division of Public Safety (DPS) was counting on when they launched Penn Guardian, an innovative program that turns your cellphone into a personal security device.

Penn Guardian is a free, optional service that allows PennComm dispatchers, police, and first responders to locate faculty, staff, and students using a GPS system in the event of an emergency. Additionally, users have the option of creating a personal profile—including things like height, weight, drug allergies and other pertinent medical information, and an up-to-date photo—that would allow first responders to react more quickly to each specific situation.

The personal profile is entirely optional and, like the GPS-pinpointing function, is heavily encrypted and only accessible by dispatchers when a user calls for assistance.  

Reaction to Penn Guardian in the Penn community has been mostly positive. “In this community,” one student said, “or any community for that matter, you don’t know when or where an emergency could happen. I think this is a good step to make us safer.”

According to Maureen S. Rush, vice president for public safety, “It is clear that the Penn community sees the value of the Penn Guardian system. In less than 24 hours after we launched the program, approximately 1,800 students, faculty, and staff had registered their cellphones and profiles.”

However, the program has piqued a sort of Orwellian anxiety as well. Some people on campus expressed wariness about being able to be located at any given time, or of having their profiles leaked onto the Internet by mistake. Said one student who didn’t plan on signing up, “I think it’s pretty creepy.”

Others doubted the practicality of dialing a 10-digit number during a crisis. “I feel like my first instinct is going to be to call 911,” said another student, “not go through my address book to find DPS.”

To sign up for Penn Guardian, all active faculty, staff, and students can register at

—Ty Russell C’11


©2010 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 10/25/10