Cameras Everywhere



In the past, businesses, governments and other stakeholders have been made aware of their impact on other global challenges — such as women’s rights and the environment. Through pressure and support from civil society and citizens they have emerged to take a leading role in finding solutions. Long-term, sustainable change requires genuine engagement between civil society, business and government to be impactful.

Below we outline several key steps — for technology companies and developers, investors, human rights organization, funders and policy makers — that must be taken to enhance the potential of video for human rights, and more broadly, to ensure that all people can use technology safely and effectively.



1. Put human rights clearly into content and user policies.

  • Create human rights content categories
    • Create categories and build specific content review mechanisms (including an assessment of informed consent by individuals being filmed or uploaded) to deal with content tagged and flagged as human rights related. This should relate to a workflow addressing account deactivation requests related to human rights content.
  • Build-in human rights prompts
    • For any content categorized or tagged as human rights related, build in prompts to encourage responsible usage of human rights content. This could include nudges for adding more context, confirming the consent and protecting the identity of individuals featured, and communicating how the uploader intends footage to be used.
  • Reevaluate current policy
    • Conduct a human rights impact assessment of existing site policies, including mobile products, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, and make public the findings, along with recommendations for modifications.
  • Make human rights and privacy policies more visible
    • Announce and highlight changes (additions or removals) to site, mobile or product policies that specifically address human rights and privacy vulnerabilities or concerns raised in human rights impact assessments or through other means.
    • Ensure policies relevant to human rights and privacy vulnerabilities are clearly presented, and in multiple languages.
    • Discuss clearly, publicly and transparently — to the extent possible — editorial decisions that illuminate human rights content guidelines.
  • Allow anonymity
    • Explicitly permit, or at least tolerate, anonymous usage of sites and platforms, and pseudonymous use of user accounts.
  • Preserve human rights content
    • Ensure that human rights content, wherever possible, is preserved and accessible across all platforms, languages and markets, including mobile. In light of recent service closures, such as Google Video, this is particularly important.

2. Improve functionality around visual privacy and anonymity.

  • Build visual privacy checks
    • Incorporate data masking, such as that encoded into images (e.g. location, time, type of camera), as well as standard privacy checks into product design, development and marketing workflows.
  • Draw on risk scenarios outlined through human rights impact assessments.
    • Follow the principle of privacy by design, and for products already in circulation, privacy by default. This is particularly important for products, apps and services that share this data with third parties that may not exercise the same diligence.
  • Build new tools
    • Enable users to selectively blur faces, voices, and redact specific words and to use other relevant anonymization/privacy protection techniques directly at the point of upload (for platforms or social networks) or acquisition (for hardware or mobile apps), and to alter videos in this way after they have been published if necessary.

3. Create dedicated digital human rights spaces.

  • Curate content
    • Support curation of human rights-related video content selected by appropriately qualified, trained or experienced individuals.
  • Create space for human rights content
    • Create blogs/ toolkits/ discussion forums dedicated to strengthening user education and promoting broader understanding of human rights in the digital era.
  • Transparent takedowns and editorial decisions
    • To the extent possible, document, make public and discuss transparently content or account takedown requests from all sources, identifying where these relate specifically to human rights situations. Explain publicly and transparently editorial decisions related to human rights content.
  • Employ Creative Commons licensing
    • Encourage the most permissive licensing possible that corresponds with human rights concerns, so that content produced can be circulated and translated widely at the same time as being correctly attributed.
  • Make ethics and security easier
    • Provide links at appropriate points in the mobile and online user flow to downloadable, mobile-ready video guides, supporting users to deal better with (informed) consent, protecting safety and security of those filmed and those filming, and vicarious trauma for those filming and those watching.

4. Engage with the wider technology-human rights debates and relevant multi- stakeholder initiatives.

  • Collaborate on human rights guidelines
    • Participate in wider initiatives to develop, share and refine ethical codes or codes of conduct for increasingly ubiquitous video. These guidelines should specifically address human rights use cases.
  • Involve legal, product managers, executives and engineers, and customer- facing staff
    • A range of these perspectives can best inform discussions and analysis on human rights and technology.
  • Participate in multi-stakeholder initiatives
    • Participate in multi-stakeholder initiatives, such as the Global Network Initiative, that address human rights in the technology sphere.
    • Ensure that these processes, deliberations and decisions are — to the extent possible — transparent and public.
  • Address supply chain and environmental impact issues directly and transparently
    • Utilize Human Rights Impact and Environmental Impact Assessments and make similar requirements of sub-contractors.


Venture capitalists and investors play a critical role in bringing high-quality technology products and services to market. Thus, incorporating small changes to product development and refinement processes could yield major gains in human rights terms, as has been shown from other socially-responsible investment strategies.

1. Put human rights at the forefront of investment.

  • Understand human rights implications
    • Work with Global Network Initiative (GNI) and/or other multi-stakeholder groups to understand human rights implications of technologies.
    • Develop a simple human rights impact checklist for VCs for development of new products, especially in personal data or geolocation space.
    • Help developers understand and take into account the potential impacts of their work, and to consistently apply industry standards for cross-border data security and other protections.

2. Collaborate with human rights funders.

  • Create joint funding mechanisms
    • Focus on technology development specifically for human rights, bringing expertise on technology investment to funding field.


The fight for human rights is increasingly intertwined with technology usage and policy. However, human rights organizations, and civil society more widely, do not understand or integrate technology well enough to wield as credible influence as needed when advocating on issues of technology and tech policy. They must collaborate more and compete less, as well as learn to work with and learn from non-traditional partners, like technologists, technology companies, hackers, government, media and the security/ intelligence community. But even as changes in technology appear to indicate shifting values, human rights organizations must continue to stand firm on core universal human rights values, standards and principles and help these values take root in the technology sphere.

1. Engage with technologists.

  • Invest in expertise
    • Invest in in-house and external expertise to strengthen analysis and advocacy related to technology and ICTs.
    • Dedicate resources to engagement with technology developers and investors.
  • Develop collaborative spaces
    • Engage and share expertise (virtually or otherwise) with technology developers and producers to help address human rights issues and use- case scenarios in technology development.
  • Create technology-specific human rights training
    • Collaborate on common, open-source factual curricula for human rights workers to understand how emerging technologies impact human rights.
    • Provide training/support networks and training capacity/tools grassroots organizations to enable them to participate fully in the use of ICTs and other technologies.
    • Encourage digital media practitioners to introduce or update elements that are relevant to technology and human rights into media literacy initiatives and educational curricula, in multiple languages and across teaching contexts.
  • Continually reassess the landscape
    • Regularly reassess how to make security and safety procedures for technology products more streamlined and accessible.
  • Accelerate efforts to preserve human rights content and make it accessible
    • Push for broader efforts to digitize and preserve the wealth of visual human rights content held by civil society, online and offline.
    • Develop long-term ways to preserve and make accessible human rights content online.

2. Collaborate more, compete less.

  • Create a Human Rights Tech Network
    • Create a virtual network of human rights organizations — including freedom of expression, right to information, women’s rights, and other domains — committed to tracking and prioritizing technology policy issues.
    • Engage with National Human Rights Institutions on how transnational internet issues impact on human rights domestically and internationally.
    • Engage in GNI and similar processes.
  • Coordinate cross-platform discussions
    • Increase joint informational meetings for policy-makers in key policy-making, standards-setting and legislative spaces (e.g. European Parliament, U.S. Congress, ISO, ITU) on major upcoming legislation and decision-making processes.
    • Increase coordinated participation in relevant fora and decision-making venues (e.g. the Internet Governance Forum) with an eye on collective action.
    • Encourage engagement in the GNI from a wider cross-section of global civil society, media, business and technology funders/investors.
  • Employ a big-tent strategy
    • Engage with sectors of civil society that address other areas of internet policy — such as media development, governance, transparency, human and national security.
    • Develop human rights principles for investments in ICT by major institutional and private donors and investors, and/or strengthen existing sets of principles with human rights perspectives.

3. Invest in research in partnership with academic and other research organizations.

  • Document and analyze
    • Systematically review cases and trends relating to the intersection of technology and human rights.
    • Develop new or refine existing monitoring and evaluation systems for technology and technology-based approaches now embedded in human rights documentation, campaigning and advocacy practice.
  • Create predictive modeling
    • Invest in regular scenario development or other kinds of predictive research, to model and anticipate trends in technology and policy that may impact specific areas of human rights policy and practice.
  • Share findings
    • Collect, collate and publish case studies illuminating and providing new actionable insights into the interaction between human rights, video and technology.


Governmental, foundation and private donors play a critical role in conducting and supporting research, activism and advocacy on issues related to human rights and technology. To increase impact, their funding needs to become more transparent, more accessible, more harmonized and less risk-averse. They should continue to support — through funding, networking grantees and open-sourcing their materials and research — the integration of technology and ICTs into human rights work. However, they must also focus on widening user access, education and participation, and on strengthening advocacy using new ICTs. Funders also need to cross-pollinate with a wider cross-section of practitioners involved with new ICTs outside the human rights field, including private investors. By doing this, they can develop new cross cutting funding and transparency mechanisms, providing a more balanced perspective on failure rates and value generation in technology investments.

1. Make funding transparent.

  • Map the funding landscape
    • Publish a study of the international and regional funders for technology and human rights.
    • Make explicit the quantity, direction, focus, overlap and speed of funding flows, as well as potential donor bias.
    • Include new donors based outside U.S./Europe (e.g. India, Middle East, Singapore) and large regional donor networks like Ariadne or IHRFG.

2. Collaborate with other funders, investors and technology developers.

  • Create multi-donor spaces on technology and human rights
    • Involve the largest international private and governmental donors and smaller individual philanthropists and family foundations.
    • Involve emerging crowd-funding platforms such as Kiva.
  • Create joint funding mechanisms
    • Focus on technology development specifically for human rights.
  • Assess human rights risks
    • Appoint or support the creation of an independent technology review board that will assess proposals involving large ICT investment for human rights risk and appropriateness — and vice-versa, a human rights advisory board that will assess technology-led proposals.

3. Be thought leaders.

  • Evaluate methodology
    • Lead a wide consultation on how to adapt, refine or develop monitoring and evaluation methodologies for human rights and technology.
    • Consider making shared requirements across groups of funders, so as to strengthen collective impact assessment and to ease the reporting burden on organizations working increasingly in real-time environments.


Policy and lawmakers have a central role to play in guaranteeing that citizens have access to information technologies and that they can do so effectively, safely and ethically.

Policy-makers, regulators and legislators considering technology in any domain or sector need to take into account the human rights implications of these technologies, through conducting credible Human Rights Impact Assessments.

All human rights stakeholders need to provide better information and analysis as well as actionable advocacy to help them do this better. Local judiciaries and legal communities need support to develop and strengthen their analysis of how technology and human rights interact and intersect, both on the local level and internationally. Intergovernmental, regional and national legislative and policy-making bodies need to take more inter- sectoral approaches to their analysis, particularly in incorporating human rights assessments. Encouragingly, some within the U.S. technology sector are calling for trade talks to incorporate free expression, while some are advocating that foreign aid should be dependent on recipient countries meeting good governance indicators such as a free press or an open internet.

The recommendations below are an initial subset primarily centered on the U.S. and EU.

1. Review existing legislation for consistency.

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of European legislation.
    • Ensure human rights-compatible policies are consistent applied across key areas of EU legislation and policy-making, notably business, trade, arms, counter-terrorism, cyber warfare and other relevant sectors.

2. Review legislation in relation to visual privacy issues.

  • EU Data Protection Directive and Safe Harbor Principles
    • Review the directive in respect to the rise of visual privacy issues.
    • Initiate a mechanism to update the directive in line with relevant findings and recommendations.
    • Other regional or international groupings of governments having similar legislations must consider similar reviews.
  • Focus on human rights dimensions of privacy, and particularly visual privacy in meetings of Privacy Commissioners

3. Review export controls on technologies at the national level as well as the international Wassenaar Arrangement.

  • Scrutinize monitoring practices for dual-use technologies.
    • Review and update mechanisms of scrutiny for so-called dual-use technologies in line with recent developments in the interaction between technology and human rights.
    • Include more clearly the technology hardware and software products produced by Western companies — particularly those used by repressive regimes and other governments for purposes contrary to human rights principles.
    • Engage other governments — notably China and Israel — that foster innovation in these kinds of technologies, with a view to encouraging them to adopt similar or shared oversight of this kind.
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