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An app that passively records your life so you always have a witness


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In today's world I've had several situations, aside from idiots on the road, that in hindsight I wish I'd thought ahead to video. No one knows they'll need a witness until after it's too late. This in depth article explains the impetus for the developers.

 

So they developed this app for Android, and are working on an iOS version. It works only in Android for now. See if you could use it.

 

Excerpt:

 

"Alibi is an Android app that records the last hour of your life. So if you're in a protest, police altercation, or even a dangerous personal situation, you can always have evidence.

 

Last year, Ryan Saleh was pulled over in New York City. Two police officers came knocking on his windows, and the one on the passenger's side poked his head in the car, flipped on his flashlight, and started looking around.

 

Saleh had nothing to hide, so he didn't think much of it. But later, he was recounting the story for his uncle, an attorney, who told him that not only was the officer not allowed to do that, but if Saleh had evidence, he could bring a case against him for it.

 

It got him thinking. So, he and three other software developers came together to build Alibi, an Android app that passively records all day long. Start it up, and it records audio, geolocation, images, and/or video. Every hour, it deletes what's been recorded unless you save it.

 

"The idea is that we all walk around all the time with the tools that we need to document our lives, [but] the only real reason we can't is the amount of data that it encompasses," Saleh said. "The truth is we know what we want to keep after the fact, we don't know before."

 

The app couldn't be any more timely, as the sensitivity to police brutality is at an all-time high. There was the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; the choking of Eric Garner on the streets of New York City, caught on video, in which the officers were not charged; and the South Carolina police officer who shot an unarmed black man (which did end in an indictment).

 

"We're seeing a lot of this more and more, but for every instance that is recorded, there are 10 that aren't," Saleh said. And, pulling out a phone and pressing record in say, the instance of a traffic stop? Most of the time, that's going to irk the cop. Alibi is meant to be passive because of that.

 

Saleh said he sees Alibi as a tool to record many types of situations, including "police overreaching, police brutality, protests...often times we've heard from the comments section they see themselves using it for workplace sexual harassment, bullying in school, car accidents."

 

The default setting for Alibi is to record audio, images, and geolocation. Most Android phones pick up a four to six foot radius, and the images are just shy of HD quality. The video is relatively low quality but captures a lot, Saleh said, and the geolocation picks up once every 15 minutes. If you keep audio recording, have it take one photo a minute, and tag your geolocation, there's no measurable effect on battery life. But if you record video, you'll get about 85% of the phone's normal battery life.

 

Right now, it's is only available on Android. As of 2013, Android had 77.8% of the worldwide market share, while iOS had 17.8%. And in the US, Android accounts for 50% of sales compared to Apple's 40%. That actually works in favor for the "at-risk population" that Alibi is marketed toward, which can benefit from the hold that Android has on the market.

 

One of the biggest challenges for the Alibi team has been the iOS app. They have an iPhone app basically ready for market, but Apple's SDK doesn't allow users to run a camera in the background. Android is much more liberal about what you can and can't do with the API, but with Apple, any app using resources has to be front and center on the screen. For instance, if you're on a Skype video call and want to check your email, the video will cut out while you do that. When you open up Skype again, it reconnects.

 

The other pertinent issue with Alibi (and smartphones in general) is the legal issues regarding recording the police. When you first install the app, a disclaimer about complying with local laws pops up. In the US, the laws regarding filming are pretty liberal. Legally, there is nothing a police officer can do to stop someone recording in a public place. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a "Know Your Rights" guide for photographers that was updated in July 2014. ( https://www.aclu.org/know-your-rights-photographers ) Private property owners can make rules for photographing, but on public land, anything in plain sight is okay to photograph.

 

Even more in the Tech Republic article here: http://www.techrepublic.com/article/an-app-that-passively-records-your-life-so-you-always-have-a-witness/?tag=nl.e101&s_cid=e101&ttag=e101&ftag=TRE684d531

 

One time I'm glad my SH still uses her Android phone. Interesting approach. Most of us do carry a smartphone. I hope they write alibi for Windows phones eventuall too.

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