A cellphone can be both a powerful tool and a huge risk for human rights activists. Images and videos captured through mobile phones can reveal police brutality or even war crimes, as the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have shown.
However, information saved on activists’ cell phones can also expose dissident networks or other sensitive data. During the recent protests in Ukraine, police reportedly used locations revealed through cell phones to track protestors.
The “digital arms race” between activists and repressive governments is the main focus of our SXSW panel Caught in the Act: Mobile Tech and Human Rights on Tuesday, March 11.
Together with colleagues from WITNESS and The Guardian Project, we’ll be discussing “the current state of this struggle from both human rights practitioner and technologist perspectives, and learn what mobile technologies are needed to help tip the balance.”
This will include a discussion on how apps such as InformaCam, Panic Button or Hancel will increase the evidentiary value of citizen media or provide protection to frontline human rights defenders, respectively. It will also discuss how metadata collected through documentation apps will impact crisismapping or the synchronization of multi-perspective videos.
I’ll be tweeting from SXSW over the next few days, with a focus on emerging technological developments that might impact human rights monitoring (think Satellite Video….). You can follow #ICT4Rights or @ckoettl on Twitter for updates. If you happen to be in Austin as well, say hello at the panel, ping me on Twitter, or check out one of these other noteworthy talks (among many):