WITNESS's Obscura Camera

Overbrook grantee WITNESS, a human rights organization promoting the use of video advocacy, has sent us information about media coverage of their new video technologies to assist human rights defenders and civilian journalists in documenting human rights abuses. In partnership with The Guardian Project, Witness has developed Secure Smart Camera and its first version “Obscura Camera,” which offers privacy and anonymity to both those filming an event and those in the video who may be putting their lives at risk to protest human rights abuses or injustice. Responding to the organization’s findings in its Cameras Everywhere Report and the increase in the use of video in protests during 2011’s popular uprisings (ie: the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements), WITNESS hopes to minimize reprisals for filming human rights abuses. Obscura Camera will allow filmmaker activists to hide the identity of the filmmaker and faces in the crowd with boxes covering images or distorting faces through a program on their cameras or cell phones. “The Future of Protest Video", a multimedia article on the TheEconomist.com, clearly explains the details and the value of this technology to activists.It also introduces InformaCam, a plugin for Obscura Camera, which can embed information of the exact location and time of the video so that a spontaneous video may be regarded as more acceptable for use in court cases or advocacy campaigns. Clearly, Safe Secure Camera has the capacity to help video activists in multiple ways based on their immediate needs.

Overbrook supports WITNESS because of its use of modern technology to defend human rights defenders and provide these activists another tool for documenting critical human rights violations As the use of video to document these abuses increases, it is critical that those involved with these movements can be protected and, as a result, it is wonderful to hear that this program is getting so much positive feedback. For more information, this project has recently been featured in articles like The Economist’s Visibility for all, Forbes Magazine’s New York Flexes Its Tech Cred and Wired UK’s 25 big ideas for 2012: Always on sousveillance.