picture of policemen

While many people are always wondering whether Big Brother is watching, now citizens may have a chance to turn the tables and take matters in their own hands. Thanks to a free Android app offered by the American Civil Liberties Union, citizens can now secretly tape police activity without concerns their device will be taken away.

The app is named Police Tape and it enables users to discreetly record video and audio, reported CNET.com. This privacy takes place as the app disappears from a phone’s screen as a recording starts. Users can also send recording copies to the ACLU-New Jersey for backup storage. Analysis can then be performed for possible civil liberties violations.

This comes after the June release of Android’s Stop and Frisk Watch app. The New York Civil Liberties Union released the app which ceases filming when the device has been shaken. It also informs people when there are other app users nearby recording police activity. Both apps also include legal information regarding citizens’ rights when interacting with the police.

The use of video recordings isn’t anything new. Both police and citizens understand they can be helpful to investigations of claims of police brutality and misconduct especially in protests and arrests (see LA’s Rodney King). But police have taken mobile devices that have recorded the altercations. They have also arrested citizens for making the recordings.

The courts have also seen the value in the recordings of police activities. According to CNET, a federal appeals court ordered the city of Boston to pay a man $170,000 that had been prosecuted under criminal wiretap laws. He used his cell phone to record an arrest in last summer’s landmark case. In May, another appeals court said no to an Illinois law that said it was illegal for citizens to record police officers when they were on duty. And in early 2012, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice affirmed citizen’s constitutional rights to record police while in public.

With the app, look for citizens to take on the police more often.

ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs said in a statement about the Police App, “This app provides an essential tool for police accountability. Too often incidents of serious misconduct go unreported because citizens don’t feel that they will be believed. Here, the technology empowers citizens to place a check on police power directly.”

According to CNET, later in the summer an iOS version of Police Tape will be available.