How to Record Video on Your Phone in an Emergency

How to Record Video on Your Phone in an Emergency

How to Record Video on Your Phone in an Emergency

Get recorded video in any situation.

There are many situations where you might want to quickly record video to your phone without it looking like it is recording video to your phone, whether you are seeking to stay safe in a vulnerable situation, protesting in a country that doesn’t necessarily want to see anyone protest, or holding law enforcement to account.

This puts Apple and Google in a bind, as hidden video recording on a smartphone is not something they want to encourage. Yes he can be useful and potentially life-saving, but it can also be very easily misused for all sorts of sinister purposes. With that in mind, there are no apps or tricks you can use to record video completely secretly.

There are, however, tricks to quickly save clips when your phone is locked, and to dim the screen while recording the video, and more. It’s worth knowing what these options are on your phone, should you ever have to rely on one of them.


If you need quick access to the video recording feature on an iPhone when the screen is locked, press the power button, long press the camera button (bottom right), then press and hold the shutter button: Photo mode suddenly becomes video mode and a recording is started.

You will need to hold your finger down for the recording to continue. Once complete, only the clip that was just saved will be accessible without fully unlocking the device. To prevent anyone from accessing that most recent video as well, you can lock the phone again by pressing the power button again.

The Siri Shortcut to use when the cops show up.

The Siri Shortcut to use when the cops show up.
Screenshot: Shortcuts

Other features can be added with the I get shot Siri shortcut (the work of Robert Peterson). Once you install it, say “I’m getting arrested” within earshot of Siri, and a video recording starts from the front camera. The screen is dimmed at the same time and Do Not Disturb is on, to prevent unwanted attention from being drawn to your smartphone.

Although the shortcut runs while your phone is locked, you’ll need to unlock it to start recording and choose the recipients you want to send it to once the recording is complete. You can also set videos to automatically download through your favorite cloud storage app (if that happens to be iCloud, you can make sure auto-download is turned on by opening Settings, then your Apple ID name , then iCloud).

Activation of the VoiceOver function.

Activation of the VoiceOver function.
Screenshot: iOS

There is an accessibility trick to enable video recording when the screen is off, although recording must be started when the screen is on and unlocked. In Settings, choose Accessibility and Accessibility shortcutthen activate Voice off (screen reader utility). From the camera app, start capturing video, then triple-tap the power button to activate VoiceOver, and triple-tap the screen with three fingers. The screen turns off, but the recording continues. Reverse the process with the triple taps to return to normal.

As you’d expect, Apple doesn’t give third-party apps the ability to record videos in the background or when your phone is off. The closest app we found is SP Camera: It will cost you a few bucks, but it tries to disguise the fact that the video recording is happening by reducing the view of the camera and placing other screen furniture around it.

Meanwhile, Mobile Justice of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was designed to record interactions with law enforcement: videos are automatically shared with trusted contacts you specify and automatically uploaded to ACLU servers, so they are safe and sound if your phone should be seized for any reason.


In terms of software features, Android phones vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so you may need to do some research on your particular model. You also have to deal with the different Android versions, you might have to wait for an update, but you should be able to find something that works for your phone.

On Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones, the fastest way to record video from the lock screen is to double tap the power button to bring up the main camera app, then long press the shutter button: even if you are in photo mode initially, the press and hold action starts recording a video.

Pixel phones can record emergency videos.

Pixel phones can record emergency videos.
Screenshot: Security

As you launched the camera from the lock screen, the only video available without any sort of authentication will be the one you just recorded; to hide it too, lock the phone again by pressing the power button again. If your photo software is configured to automatically download the video, you’re done: in the Google Photos app for Android, for example, tap your avatar (top right), Photo settingsand Backup and synchronization.

However, these default methods require the Camera app to be open. If you have a Pixel phone, another method is available through the Security app: tap the cog icon (top left), then Emergency SOS, and you can configure what happens to your phone when you press the power button five times quickly. Among the options is one to record a video in the background, which can then optionally be shared with a specific contact.

Background Video Recorder Pro can be operated from a notification shade.

Background Video Recorder Pro can be operated from a notification shade.
Screenshot: android

Third-party apps are also available to cover similar functionality, although they don’t exactly match security. With the aptly named Background Video Recorder Proyour screen should be unlocked and the app should be open when you start recording, but then you can use other apps and even lock your phone while recording continues in the background. The recording can then be stopped (and the video automatically shared) without unlocking your phone.

NinjaCam works along the same lines, letting you record video in the background while other apps are active or the screen is off. As with Background Video Recorder Pro, however, you need to open the app when recording actually begins. You get a few extra options with this app, including an app-specific PIN lock to put an extra barrier between your videos and anyone who might want to watch them.

Jhe Mobile Justice ACLU’s app is also available on Android as well as iPhone. You can use it to record situations where you think your safety is at risk, and because clips are automatically shared with trusted contacts and the ACLU, your video comes out even if your phone isn’t working.. The app is also packed with useful information, including details of your rights if you are arrested by the police or protest.

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