Secure Smart Cam Project
Jan. 17, 2013: We're pleased to announce that WITNESS and The Guardian Project have been named one of eight winners for the Knight News Challenge for Mobile. Details here.
The mobile phone is now the de facto tool for documenting change and dramatic events in the world around us. Mobile devices have made possible for millions of people not only to document, but to immediately distribute their own content, their own stories. These citizen witnesses are often unprepared for security and safety challenges that arise both for themselves and the people they film - including the confiscation of their devices, attack, imprisonment, revictimization, or worse.
A clear and demonstrated need exists among those who are receiving this deluge of media: journalists, human rights advocates and the legal community. These individuals and organizations need a way to secure and verify the vast amounts of footage and images, especially those coming from areas of conflict and political unrest.
WITNESS has partnered with The Guardian Project to create a suite of mobile apps - currently available on the Android platform only - that can help citizen witnesses and human rights defenders everywhere use video more safely and effectively.
InformaCam is the first mobile app seeking to address issues of authentication for digital media. Citizen-shot media sent to newsrooms, human rights organizations and courts of law is often missing vital information that would enable them to verify the story such as who shot it, surrounding context, and a reliable source of data that can answer, “Is this for real?””
InformaCam deliberately turns on your mobile device’s sensors to track GPS, directionality, as well as wifi and related devices nearby so that you can enhance information about the context surrounding the capture of the image. You choose to insert additional data, such as consent of people filmed. The app allows you to confirm that the image and it’s embedded meta data has come from a particular camera, at a particular time and place, before you share it in encrypted format with someone you trust – for example, a human rights investigations team.
We are currently conducting private user testing and working to internationalize the app in Arabic, French and Spanish. In the remainder of 2013, we’ll conduct outreach on the app and how to use it to journalists, human rights defenders and legal institutions. We’ll also promote the features of the app to developers of commercial electronics and software as reference design for incorporating human rights friendly principles into future products.
For an overview of how the app works, read “Is This For Real? How InformaCam Improves Verification of Mobile Media Files” on our blog.
Of course, we know that there are great risks to shooting and sharing, particularly when done quickly onto major commercial platforms, and that there aren't great options for protecting people in the image frame, or removing metadata when having that information may endanger the user. We believe we can give people better options for protecting visual anonymity when it really matters.
ObscuraCam is a mobile app that allows users to blur or obfuscate faces in photos and videos. It can be used on media taken directly with the app itself, as well as imported media to your mobile phone.
While ObscuraCam works on both video and still images, the current state of technology for media processing on mobile devices is prohibitively slow. We are working with the Guardian Project and other partners to develop a faster and more efficient open source framework for processing video and other media on mobile devices. We hope to have more information on this project later in 2013.
YouTube launched a face blurring tool on its platform in July 2012, allowing users to redact faces in videos that they’ve uploaded and delete the original file. We are pleased to see that companies such as YouTube are also implementing safeguards to ensure visual privacy.
See more about InformaCam and ObscuraCam in this report by The Economist in 2012.
Download ObscuraCam and Get Involved
Download ObscuraCam here (available for Android OS only at this time.)
Are you a developer? For more information or to participate in WITNESS Labs, please contact Technology Manager, Bryan Nuñez.