Apps help protesters share video of police encounters

With confrontations between citizens and police on the rise, new technology is allowing users on the front lines to upload clashes instantaneously to the Internet.

Following the events of alleged police brutality in Ferguson, New York and now Baltimore, protests have risen in cities across the country, and many protesters come ready to roll the cameras. A handful of new smartphone apps help ensure that users will be able to get their video evidence out to the public before it can be destroyed by police and leverage the power of social media to bring attention to the protest movement.

"You are seeing more instances of cops perhaps trying to stop someone from recording an incident that is going on so there has been a movement to have apps that make it easier for you to not just record something on your phone but get it up on YouTube immediately without you having to fiddle around and save it," CNET's Bridget Carey told CBS News.

Among the most popular is Cop Watch, a free app created by the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence in Toronto. The app allows users to begin recording as soon as it is launched, and to upload video to YouTube automatically. It's available on App Store for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.

A similar app was rolled out by FiVo Film. For $1.99 and available for download on both on Android and Apple devices, this app allows users to instantly save video to their phone and upload it to the Internet.

Bambuser was not designed for police protests but has been embraced by the movement. Started by self-described "ninjas" in Finland and Sweden, it is a live video streaming service that allows users to quickly and easily capture, share and watch live video broadcasts from mobile phones or computers. It also allows users to instantly share the video on social networks including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr.

A basic plan on Bambuser costs $45 a month and includes 250 viewing hours. The company earlier this month entered into an agreement that allows users to give The Associated Press rights to distribute their newsworthy content from the site.

"Things like that are making it easier to get the word out on what is going on around you," Carey said, adding that the latest apps adds to an environment where recording has become the norm.

"You are seeing more talk of alleged instances of cops perhaps acting poorly so they are wearing cameras and the reaction from the public is to record more," she said. "So everyone is wanting to record."

And what about fears of having your smartphone confiscated or destroyed as has happened to some protesters?

Carey said the law is clearly on the side of the protesters when it comes to photographing in a public space.

"You have a right to record in public as long as you're not personally interfering with what's going on," she said. "There has been a movement to get more attention to this. Photography Is Not A Crime is one such movement you see on Facebook, where people are talking about recording what is going and being able to upload it without being stopped."

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for CBSNews.com