Smartphones are impressive devices, to say the least. A smartphone user can consume TV, music & movies; communicate via streaming video; check the weather; record audio; take professional quality video footage; snap high quality photos… The list just continues to grow and grow. With all of these incredible capabilities, why not add surveillance?
A recent article over at the Atlantic highlights a fascinating project by 23-year-old hacker Rich Jones. CopRecorder (iPhone) and OpenWatch (Android) are part of an experiment Jones describes as "a global participatory counter-surveillance project which uses cellular phones as a way of monitoring authority figures." In short, CopRecorder and Openwatch are apps that covertly record audio during encounters with authority figures, enabling the user to submit the audio anonymously to the OpenWatch site.
Here's a brief explanation of the project (plus instructions for installation):
Jones was inspired to build the app when some friends encountered conflict with the police, and may have been aided by the ability to record audio of the situation. With 50,000 downloads and counting, Jones hopes the app will create a "new kind of journalism". He tells the Atlantic: "When people think citizen media, right now they think amateur journalism... I don't think that's revolutionary. I don't think that's what the '90s cyberutopianists were dreaming of. I think the real value of citizen media will be collecting data."
Read more about the project here.