Tech by VICE

This Guy Invented an App that's Bringing More Surveillance Cameras to the World

Perch makes it easier than ever to catch people acting sketchy, if you're into that sort of thing.

by Mike Pearl
19 May 2016, 4:00am

Perch Live screengrab courtesy of Rob Banagale

Americans are scared of surveillance. Being spied on by the government and by private companies both ranked near the top in Chapman University's 2015 Survey of American Fears, and it's no mystery why.

In the days since Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA surveillance, people who are instinctively paranoid about being monitored have been more-or-less vindicated. Law enforcement really does monitor us in nasty ways that make us uncomfortable when we find out about them, and such cases crop up all the time. But it's not just the government. Anytime we Americans see a camera-equipped drone buzzing around, we all shit ourselves, even though those cameras are generally much, much, much too shitty to capture anything juicy.

But maybe we should all chill out. After all, it's not like people are all that eager to spy on each other for no reason, right?

Wrong, says Robert Banagale, who has invented Perch, an app that allows users around the world to turn any old phones they may have lying around into mounted surveillance cameras, streaming hi-def video of whatever they want, 24 hours-a-day. By way of an introduction, Banagale emailed two pieces of footage to VICE from an Oakland gas station: one of a lady snorting cocaine or meth, and another of a guy injecting himself in the crotch with what appears to be heroin.

So we got ahold of Banagale to find how how he intends for this new service to be used once it debuts, and about whether he's worried users might stray from good intentions.