This week, WITNESS is busy in the Bay Area of California where we’ll be at multiple public meetings discussing ideas in our Cameras Everywhere leadership initiative. We’re speaking on a panel at the first Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, attending the first advisory board meeting of the exciting new EngineRoom initiative, and we’re presenting at Stanford University’s Liberation Technology Seminar on the “Cameras Everywhere” report and the tools we’re developing in WITNESS Labs.

More details on each below.

Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference, October 25-26

The Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference is a conference “examining and exploring how the human rights and high-tech sectors can better plan for and manage the human rights implications of new technologies”.

They will feature livecasts of the panels and keynotes on their website and CitizenTube.com. You can also follow the conversations via Twitter on @rightscon and via #rightscon. And both myself and Bryan Nunez, our Technology Manager, will be live-tweeting as much as possible on @samgregory and @tech_wit (if you want more sources, there’s also a Twitter list of speakers).

Our panel at the conference is on Wednesday, October 26th at 11:15am-12:30pm PT (GMT -7). Our discussion will hopefully touch on the issues we’ve been highlighting in the Cameras Everywhere report, and I’ll be raising some of the recommendations to technology companies and investors that we make.

Here’s a summary of the panel, “Visual Media Technologies, Content and Human Rights: Content has changed our world, how do we manage its impact on society, governance, and privacy?“:

Cisco’s recent Visual Networking Index predicts that by the end of 2012 Internet video will be more than 50% of global consumer Internet traffic (up from 40% in 2010), while photos are a mainstay of online communication. Facial recognition and live-video are increasingly being integrated into consumer-oriented apps and devices.

Video and photos are also increasingly central to human rights work, campaigning and advocacy. In the Arab Spring, image and video-sharing from the mobile devices and Internet connections of activists in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria has been a powerful mode of communicating on human rights. But there have been emergent challenges also – around network shut-downs, around anonymity, privacy and retribution, and around the terms of services of major video and photo-sharing platforms and whether they sufficiently protect or enable human rights work and freedom of expression more broadly. The role of technology providers and companies as intermediaries and facilitators of human rights activity has come into focus in the mainstream media. But human rights are not just about the protestor on the street in Iran, Yemen or Burma. The panel will consider two sets of human rights-related scenarios for any technology company or investor. On the one hand, what are concerns specific to human rights defenders using your tools; on the other, what are human rights concerns relevant to all users?

The panel will be moderated by the lead author of our “Cameras Everywhere” report, Sameer Padania (CEO of Macroscope, and former WITNESS Hub Manager), and also includes Thor Halvorssen (Founder, Oslo Freedom Forum), Hans Eriksson (Founder and Executive Chairman of the livecasting service Bambuser, that has been widely used during the Arab Spring), and Steve Grove (until recently, Head of News & Politics YouTube).

What else to check out?

The conference is a very packed two days. I’d particularly highlight some workshops where some of our allies and collaborators are speaking:

*Workshop 5 on Tuesday 2:30-3:45 PT, featuring Nathan Freitas from the Guardian Project: “From Startups to the Fortune 500: Incorporating human rights by design: How and why companies should embed human rights during the development of new technologies rather than responding to crises when they occur.”

*Workshop 9 on Tuesday  4:00-5:15 PT featuring Jillian C York from Electronic Frontier Foundation: “Social networking – Exploring how defending human rights can actually strengthen a company’s bottom line.”

*Workshop 13 on Wednesday 3:15-4:30 PT featuring Widney Brown of Amnesty International and Sascha Meinrath of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative: “London and our rights: Social media in times of crisis – What are the responsibilities of companies in protecting the human rights of their users and the extent to which they can, and should, cooperate with authorities?.” We’ve blogged on the issues of crowd-sourced identification in the London and Vancouver riots – this will explore other dimensions that emerged.

*Workshop 14 should be a sparky discussion and one that WITNESS has an interest in as we increasingly engage with the privacy questions around ubiquitous visual media: “Privacy — what are the responsibilities of companies to their users? – How should corporations respond to invasions of privacy by governments, law enforcement and other actors and what do users expect from their platforms?” It features speakers from Privacy International, Mozilla, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Chris Soghoian.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also put out their own guide and recommendations of what to attend that is well worth looking at.

EngineRoom Initial Convening and Stanford University Seminar, October 27

This week we’ll be participating in the initial, private Advisory Group meeting for the EngineRoom, a new initiative to provide a secure online space for strategy, advice and support between citizens, trainers and technologists. If you’re attending the Silicon Valley conference they’re also holding an open working group discussion for attendees at 1:15pm on Tuesday, October 25th.

And if you’re in the Palo Alto area, do consider coming to our Thursday, October 27th presentation at Stanford’s Liberation Technology Seminar. It’s free to attend and the presentation begins at 4:30pm. We’ll be discussing our “Cameras Everywhere” work and the SecureSmartCam collaboration we’re working on with the Guardian Project.

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