The Secure Smart Camera App for Human Rights Video

Posted on March 9, 2011 by Witness Administrator

Earlier this year we announced our “Cameras Everywhere” initiative which hopes to address some of the changes happening around human rights video online and on mobile phones. The tools for creating and distributing video are becoming more wide spread and more accessible. More video means greater opportunities for people to see human rights video, but one aspect is that it also means more risks if people aren’t careful about protecting their privacy, and that of people they film.  Part of the initiative is about trying to bring human rights values into the development processes of the people and companies that make these tools.  We also decided that we needed to start making some of these tools ourselves.

Our first effort at tool building started at the 2010 Open Video Conference “hack day,” where we partnered up with the Guardian Project, and came up with the Secure Smart Camera (SSC).  The SSC is an open source camera phone application built especially for human rights defenders. The idea is to combine concepts like informed consent, intent, and human dignity with technical features that help ensure the safety, security, and privacy of the pictures, video, and data collected on the phone.

Automatic Face Recognition

Mock up of how the automatic facial recognition could work

Some of the SSC’s security features will include:

  • Visual Obfuscation (i.e. automated face blur):  During a protest, an activist films an interview with a spokesperson for the group, but wants to protect the identity of the people in the background.  She does this by automatically blurring out the faces of everyone who hasn’t consented to being on camera.
  • Secure Encrypted Storage for Media and Metadata: A human rights worker uses his camera phone to collect testimony from villagers forced out of their homes by the government, but on the way back to his lodgings, he is arrested and his phone confiscated. The police want to know who was interviewed.

What’s Next and A Call for Developers

We are building the first version on Android and are currently finishing up the first development sprint. Here’s a link to a presentation about the development of the application so far.

We hope to have a working demo at the end of April. If you’re an Android developer or just curious, you can check out what we’re doing on the SCC Github site. If you’re interested in learning more check out the Guardian Project’s page. If you’re a programmer and are interested in helping, we’ve got a project on Github too.


Be Sociable, Share!

What Others Are Saying

  1. eka April 29, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    please make this apps also suitable for java-based phones, becoz not everyone have android/i-phone/smartphone :)

  2. Ahmad M. April 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I’m from Sudan, we attempted to demonstrate peacefully several times throughout the last 21 years of which are controlled by the fascist regime of NCP. lately we started organizing demonstrations through facebook inspired by the revolutions that swamped the area known as middle east from tunisia to syria, and we were met with massive force and random aressting and rape in one case (Safia Ishag). we lost so much footage because they make sure they search the phones of the captured ones, this software is going to be very helpful. looking forward to it.


  3. Natanael L March 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    BTW, there are for sure MUCH more detailed guides out there then that one. But right now I don’t know a good one. *searching*

    • Bryan Nunez March 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      Hi Natanael,

      Thanks for the heads up on the noise signature! I’ll definitely bring it up with the rest of the group. If you come across any other resources please let me know.


      • Natanael L April 20, 2011 at 3:59 pm

        Hi again. Late reply, but better then nothing.

        Astronomers have been doing this a lot, trying to detect precisely what flaws specific cameras have to compensate for them, with the side effect of essentially making it nearly impossible to detect camera introduced noise or identifying it.
        Something I found after a quick search:

        Go look for anything that reduces camera noise.

  4. Natanael L March 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    Do not forget to include that! Automated anonymization of the camera itself would be just as useful once you have passed the photos/videos on and they have been deleted from your phone.
    You don’t want somebody to take the phone, take a bunch of pictures and compare them with the previous ones to then throw you in jail or whatever your adversary is planning to do with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>