Eyes on those who have eyes on us .
“The whole event was documented, in secret, by the driver who was stopped. He was using OpenWatch, a mobile application that turns any Android phone or iPhone into a surreptitious recording device. The app’s creator, Rich Jones, a 23-year-old freelance mobile developer, says the goal of OpenWatch is to map the use and abuse of power by law enforcement officials throughout the country.
“By all of us together, creating data, we can get a real picture of how enforcement goes on in this country, and how it varies from region to region,” Jones told me, “and we can only do that if the people get involved.”
After OpenWatch records an interaction, lurking among the background processes on a mobile phone, it gives the user the option to upload the audio file to OpenWatch’s servers. Jones scours the uploads for posts of significance — he gets about 50 a day, he says — and, when something of interest comes through the transom, he cleans it of information identifying the citizen, then posts it online. An update to OpenWatch offers similar functionality for surreptitious recording of video.”
The result is the kind of curious inversion of surveillance society we’ve seen in other Internet-enabled activism, like HollaBack, the networked nonprofit fighting harassment of women on the street, or I Paid a Bribe, the Indian site for reporting instances where government officials demanded bribery. Persistent openness, the thinking goes, rewards good behavior as well as punishes bad actors.