iPhones have introduced some great features this year, and one of it is shortcuts. With a little bit of logic and knowledge, you can stitch several apps together and can create a script which can be activated by pressing a button or calling Siri. Some of the early uses of this feature were predictable like saving Instagram photos, sharing the song you’re listening to, or creating a morning routine that activates your lights and plays a song. However, Robert Petersen of Arizona has developed a more severe shortcut called Police.
The shortcut monitors police interactions so you can have a record of what has happened. Once you install it, you have to give a command like Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over. Once the command is initiated, the program turns down the brightness on the iPhone, pauses music that might be playing, and turns on Do Not Disturb mode. Meanwhile, it also sends a text to a pre-determined contact informing them that you have been pulled over. It starts recording the whole scenario using the front camera of the iPhone. Once the recording is stopped, it can text or email the video to a different pre-determined contact and save it to Dropbox. Petersen said in DMs on Tuesday, “It seemed to me that if you’re getting pulled over it couldn’t hurt to have a recording of the incident. The police these days in many places have body cams, so this could be the civilian equivalent.”
The idea of a hands-free mobile app for instant interactions is not new. The American Civil Liberties Union has developed apps since 2012 which can record and livestream encounters with the police. Petersen said that he had been inspired by projects by digital rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It is difficult to tell how many people have downloaded the Shortcut however it is the third most popular post of all time on Reddit. It has been covered by Apple enthusiast press as well. The app is on version 1.4 and changes so far are focused on bug fixes and additional service support like iCloud Drive.
Most of the responses he received since the original post in September have been positive. Some people also want to adopt the Shortcut to differently potentially dangerous situations. Petersen said, “Some [people] say they’ve had issues in the past with the police, and one woman planned on using the Shortcut to help with a stalker issue she was having with an ex-boyfriend so that she could send her location to family quickly should anything occur. That’s one of the great things about Shortcuts; anyone can edit a Shortcut someone else has made to suit their specific needs.”
All the steps, apps and services that Shortcuts takes can be examined so that the user can be sure that the script isn’t uploading your data to a random server. Peterson says he doesn’t have a background in programming, but he knows to get around and has also written scripts for MacOS in the past. He says he is an Apple fan and that he is surprised that Apple announced this kind of feature for power users given the company’s tendency to keep things simple and locked down. Peterson also has advice for those who want to make their Shortcuts. He said, “The platform has a lot of potentials, and if you read the Apple user guides and consult with others on forums, or just look at how other people’s shortcuts work and ‘reverse engineer’ them to your own needs you can learn a lot quickly.”