ObscuraCam, heralded by some as the future of smartphone security apps, gets protesters more than prepared for action, especially with its new video support feature.
Previously covered by Fueled in recognition of its successful innovation, ObscuraCam is making an imperative leap from allowing users to blur identity not just in photos, but in video just as well. It enables one to share images and videos without them being traced through data embedded into the file. Recording live occurrences and interviews is important to the cause of protests, but ensuring the identity and thus security of activists is an extreme priority in many cases.
Created by The Guardian Project in partnership with Witness, a human rights organization that works with video and technology for change, the app is intended for use by none other than those passionate enough to pursue activism or journalism for the sake of defending human rights. Available for Android, the app has been downloaded over 25,000 times to date.
The extension of the option to blur identities not only in videos is a natural and necessary progression within the realm of social activism and its inherent risks. Being caught in the background of protest footage posted to Twitter is enough of a risk, especially if governments choose to use a database of ID photos in order to identify a random individual as a rioter.
The app is of course paramount for interviews. At a conference regarding ObscuraCam’s new feature, Ryan Schlief, program manager at Witness and lifelong activist explained, "What is important is that there is a story and context that is explained within an interview. It is not just about graphic images. It is about hearing the human story." There has of course been some apprehensive reviews and commentary in response to this sentiment, with most making the point that face blurring in interviews could potentially hinder the "human story" since, after all, so much of it is expressed in peoples’ faces and actions. But there is a fundamentally overarching detriment to not protecting activists against the consequences of a vulnerable identity.
While some protesters consider the aesthetic of their image crucial to their cause, such as the Topless Warriors of the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN, this is not the case for many others. While strategically welcoming the opportunity for political martyrdom by inviting the possibility of being arrested can make a strong statement, as it has historically, many who fear injustice by police force justifiably prefer to take a less risky route to supporting social change. For those looking for an effective strategy, a very powerful tactic includes protecting the identity of protesters, and anonymity is a crucial tool to protect many protesters from unjust pressure while allowing them to fearlessly voice their opinions publicly. Apps such as ObscuraCam, as part of the protesters’ toolkit, are a sure step in the direction of sustaining a progressive democracy that upholds the integrity of civil liberties by ensuring privacy and safeguarding against infringement.
Making an “ironclad” video, so to speak, is a crucial way of both stopping protest footage from being tampered with, whether by anonymous groups or authorities, and keeping protesters out of danger in the future if videos end up in courts as evidence against crimes. The progressive innovation of such essential apps will hopefully enable citizens behind revolutions and protest movements to have at least some effective means of staying one step ahead of the oppression wielded by authorities. The possibilities for the basic function this app offers can also naturally be applied to other facets of social protection - spring break seems to effortlessly come to mind.