We use MobileTechTracker as a platform to release our apps and we specialise in those kind of apps that would help ordinary citizens to protect themselves from people with bad intentions. Mostly, we achieve that by turning users' Android device in a powerful undetectable surveillance tool. The most recent of such apps is Pocket Spy Sound Recorder. However, the question that we often receive is "Why are you so obsessed with spy and security apps?". The reason for it is because in the past, I myself have been in situations, or had one of my friends in a situation, where having such app would have been extremely useful.
The first noteworthy example of this comes from a brief period of time when, as a student, I have worked for a Lancaster-based industrial cleaning company called Lara Nichols. This company specialised in cleaning new builds, industrial facilities and holiday caravans.
Lara Nichols had its dark side. It found a sneaky way of paying its employees below a legal minimum wage. It did so by paying "per unit" rather than "per hour". Each unit, whether it is a caravan or a flat in a new build, would be charged based on an assumption that it would require a relatively little time to clean, which was never the case. For example, the pay for a single unit could have been an equivalent of 40 minutes pro-rata of an hourly legal minimum wage. However, in reality, it would take the most experienced cleaners at least an hour to clean. The time it took to take a large set of cleaning equipment from one unit to another wasn't considered at all. This practice was especially bad, as the company mainly employed economically vulnerable people. Large proportion of its workforce were students like myself; however they wouldn't normally last there very long.
While working there, one day I decided to confront the administration of the company about the practices that I saw there. While I was in the office, the secretary that I was speaking to had admitted that the company indeed paid its employees below the minimum wage and told me how none of them care about breaking the law in such a manner. At the time, there weren't many smartphones with a good microphone around and other types of recording devices were relatively expensive. However, this was the first time when I thought about being able to turn my mobile phone into an undetectable recording device.
The second incident of this nature occurred when, as a graduate student, I worked on casual basis as brand representative on behalf of electronic goods manufacturers. My job consisted of visiting various electronic goods retailers in my local areas and talking to customers about a specific brand of products. For one campaign, it would be Sony Vaio laptops, on another occasion it would be LG television sets, etc..
For one of my campaigns, I was sent to a Wakefield-based Staples shop to promote HP inkjet printers. HP told us specifically not to lie to the customers. If a particular model of a printer came with enough ink to last a long time, we were to tell the customer so. Likewise, if a printer came with a full set of cables, we would have to tell the customer so.
Store staff, however, weren't so enthusiastic about the truth. They were getting a bonus for selling extras with printers and they were 100% prepared to lie in order to get their bonus. There were few occasions during my campaign when I was told off for not lying to the customers. As well as this, I saw store staff contradicting the information that was written on the printer packaging. For example, the packaging would clearly say that the printer was supplied with extra ink and/or USB cable. The store staff, depending on occasion, would tell that either the packaging outlined what extras the customer would be required to buy, or that HP themselves were providing misleading information on their own boxes.
This was very difficult to tolerate and I badly wished at the time to be able to secretly record what was happening and send the footage to HP and some popular consumer rights programs. This wasn't something I would be comfortable confronting the store staff openly about. Although I was employed by HP rather than Staples, nothing would have stopped the store staff passing false accusations about me to my employer and removing me from the store. However, secretly recorded footage released after the campaign would help the consumers. In the long term, it would even help Staples. If I as a customer would discover that I didn't need to buy any extra ink for my printer, Staples would have lost my trust and I would never shop there again. My memories of working in electronic retail have also prompted me to write the article about common ways customers are provided with misleading information.
The final event that actually prompted me to start working on the app was what happened to one of my friends. Neither her name nor the details of the events would be revealed here. However, what I can say is that she, not through a fault of her own, was in situation where she needed some help from the government. Instead of help, she has received some verbal abuse from a person working on her case, which was probably illegal. By the time I have heard this story, I have already spent a number of years writing software and developing android apps, so I was now in the position to do something about it. This is when all the above stories came to the surface and Pocket Spy Sound Recorder app was born.
Pocket Spy Sound Recorder app is undetectable and runs as a background process that records sound in high quality, limited by the hardware capability of an Android device it is installed on. Despite this, the user has a full control of the app. People in vulnerable situations will now have the protection they deserve. Widespread use of such apps would act as a good deterrent, just like CCTV cameras are. If it is reasonable to assume that a person you are dealing with may be recording the conversation, it is less likely that you would say or do something that is illegal or would violate ethical principles.
Written by Mobile Tech Tracker team
Posted on 27 Sep 2016