Started by 23-year-old Boston University graduate and self-described “hacker” Rich Jones, OpenWatch describes itself as “a participatory citizen media project aiming to provide documentary evidence of uses and abuses of power.” To achieve this goal, Jones created two apps, CopRecorder and OpenWatch.
Both apps can secretly record audio, presumably to be used in a confrontation with an authority figure. That recording can then be anonymously uploaded to the OpenWatch servers, directly from the app. From there, Jones “analyzes” the recording to see if it contains any damning evidence. He also scrubs the recording of any information that could be used to identify the person who made the recording. The OpenWatch app can also record video, and Jones goes through the same process with those clips.
CopRecorder works with devices running Android 1.5 and above, or iOS 3.0 and above. OpenWatch so far only works on Android 2.0 devices. Jones has made all of the technology used to create the OpenWatch apps free and open source, so anyone who wants to contribute to the project in that way can do so.
According to the OpenWatch website, the true purpose of the project is to serve as a journalistic tool. Jones prescribes to “scientific journalism,” a theory championed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which makes use of verifiable source material to backup the facts in a news article. Jones hopes OpenWatch can democratize this process, and make it possible for professional journalists and citizen journalists alike to be able to point their audience to tangible evidence when reporting a story about police corruption or other misconduct.
Jones says that he receives about 50 to 100 uploads each day. And about one per day contains something of interest. All recordings are available for anyone to access on OpenWatch.net
Highlighting corruption isn’t OpenWatch’s only purpose. “OpenWatch is not only intended to display abuse of power, but also to highlight appropriate use,” says the organization’s website. “As we are unbound by technological restrictions, we can aim to record every single time power is applied so that we may analyze global trends and provide a record for future historians.”
That said, it is those who take advantage of their positions of power that OpenWatch hopes to target most.
So it says on OpenWatch.net: “Police, corporate executives, judges, lawyers, private security agents, lobbyists, bankers, principals and politicians: be mindful! We are watching!
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