Human rights, video, privacy, technology

[I spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on work in this space from 2006-2012, but the field has moved on in myriad ways, and come closer to my current work in others. This page hasn’t been updated for a looooong time (since maybe 2011), but I am keeping it here for archival purposes – in case it’s interesting to see what was cutting edge in the early 2010s!]

Here’s an initial, non-exhaustive list of various NGO, activist, academic, and other resources looking at the intersection of human rights with video, technology, privacy and related issues that I have been reading recently – please let me know of the many, many items I’ve missed – comment below, email me, or tweet me. (Thanks to Sam Gregory of WITNESS and Caroline Nolan of the Berkman Center for contributing some really key resources.)


Analysis of human rights and visual media landscape

Cameras Everywhere Report 2011 and Press Release (Sameer Padania, Sam Gregory, Yvette Alberdingkthijm, Bryan Nunez – WITNESS, September 2011)

Yahoo! and YouTube: Balancing Human Rights & Business” Roundtable Discussion hosted by the Carnegie Council, 9/20/2011, Summary post: Tanya O’Carroll, Yahoo! and YouTube Share Learning on Business Practices to Protect Human Rights Content Online (10/2011)

Andrew Senior, Google, and Sharat Pankani, IBM – Privacy protection and face recognition (pdf, 2011)
Invited chapter in second edition of Handbook of Face recognition ed Stan Li & Anil K. Jain. Covers privacy protecting technologies applied to face detection and recognition.

Steve Grove of Google / Sameer Padania’s joint posts about human rights video in the digital age on the Google /YouTube /WITNESS blogs (2010)

Cameras Everywhere: Ubiquitous Video Documentation of Human Rights, New Forms of Video Advocacy, and Considerations of Safety, Security, Dignity and Consent – Journal of Human Rights Practice (2010) 2(2): 191-207

See also The Hub – human rights video online platform (from WITNESS) (archived site)

Analysis or tracking of company policies

Erica Newland, Caroline Nolan, Cynthia Wong, and Jillian York – Account Deactivation and Content Removal: Guiding Principles and Practice for Companies and Users (September 2011) – Related post: Erica Newland, Dilemma of Deactivation in the ‘Networked Public Sphere‘, 9/21/2011.

Dunstan Allison Hope – Protecting human rights in the Digital Age (BSR, Feb, 2011)
What are the freedom of expression and privacy risks faced by information and communications technology companies and how can these risks can be more effectively mitigated by the industry?

UN Global Compact on Business and Human Rights – Case studies on Freedom of Expression (incl Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter…)

Protect, Respect, Remedy Framework (UN, John Ruggie, 2011) –

Susan Morgan “Setting a Global Standard for Human Rights and Technology Companies” The Global Network Initiative – Guest Blogger on the WITNESS blog, with video.

Ethan Zuckerman on OVC 2011 –
Public Spaces, Private Infrastructure – Open Video Conference (10/01/2010)

Nokia Siemens Networks – Ethics and human rights policies (2011)

YouTomb – tracking videos taken down from YT (no longer active)

Privacy, technology and human rights

Stephen Humphreys – Privacy and human rights – Navigating the Dataverse (ICHRP, 2011)

Google’s Peter Fleischer on face-recognition: “Over the last few months, I’ve spoken about face recognition with a number of privacy experts. Everyone quickly understands how it could be a useful tool, and how it could be a freaky tool, depending on how it’s used. But essentially no one has a clue what to do about it.” (2010)

The Madrid Privacy Declaration, 2009 – calls, among other things, for a “moratorium on the development or implementation of new systems of mass surveillance, including facial recognition, whole body imaging, biometric identifiers, and embedded RFID tags, subject to a full and transparent evaluation by independent authorities and democratic debate” (revisited at the Mexico City meeting in 2011).

30th Anniversary of the OECD Privacy Guidelines – being reviewed in 2011…

Copyright and human rights

Washington Declaration on Intellectual Property and the Public Interest (August 2011)

Advanced Copyright Issues on the Internet (Fenwick & West LLP)
Wide-ranging document featuring analysis of multiple cases – not a human rights document, but still useful to see…

Technologies in the wild

ObscuraCam – an app that promotes visual privacy for Android phones (more at the Guardian Project)

Videos demonstrating simple face substitution using face tracking technology:  |

Rahul Garg, Deva Ramanan, Steven M. Seitz, Noah Snavely – Where’s Waldo: Matching People in Images of Crowds (PDF, 2011)
Given a community-contributed set of photos of a crowded public event, this paper addresses the problem of finding all images of each person in the scene. This problem is very challenging due to large changes in camera viewpoints, severe occlusions, low resolution and photos from tens or hundreds of different photographers. Despite these challenges, the problem is made tractable by exploiting a variety of visual and contextual cues – appearance, timestamps, camera pose and co-occurrence of people. This paper demonstrates an approach that integrates these cues to enable high quality person matching in community photo collections downloaded from

Cybercasing the Joint: On the Privacy Implications of Geo-Tagging – G. Friedland and R. Sommer
This article aims to raise awareness of a rapidly emerging privacy threat that we term cybercasing: leveraging geo-tagged information available online to mount real-world attacks. While users typically realize that sharing locations has some implications for their privacy, we provide evidence that many (i) are unaware of the full scope of the threat they face when doing so, and (ii) often do not even realize when they publish such information. The threat is elevated by recent developments that make systematic search for geo-located data and inference from multiple sources easier than ever before. In this paper, we summarize the state of geo-tagging; estimate the amount of geo-information available on several major sites, including YouTube, Twitter, and Craigslist; and examine its programmatic accessibility through public APIs. We then present a set of scenarios demonstrating how easy it is to correlate geo-tagged data with corresponding publicly-available information for compromising a victim’s privacy. We were, e.g., able to find private addresses of celebrities as well as the origins of otherwise anonymized Craigslist postings. We argue that our community needs to shape the further course of geo-location technology for better protecting users from such consequences. 
Research reports from Carnegie Mellon (thanks to Kathleen Reen for this), including  I Know Where You Live: Analyzing Privacy Protection in Public Databases 
Other useful lists:
The Public Voice, Mexico City 2011 – scroll to the end of the page, where there’s a handy short list of privacy resources under various headings.
Right2Info’s quite wide-ranging list of RTI-related resources.

One response to “Human rights, video, privacy, technology”

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