Admissible Evidence?

Article by Trevor Watson • Image Credit

An Introduction to the “Informacam”, “StoryMaker” and “eyeWitness to Atrocities” Apps

Smartphones are wonderful tools! It is now possible for someone in the crowd to take eye witness photographs and videos of human rights abuses actually being performed and then post them on Social Media. Whilst this can be a useful tool in publicising atrocities, these pictures are not normally admissible as evidence in a court of law. This is because their source and accuracy cannot be legally verified. It is quite possible for someone with different motives to post false pictures with malicious intent. The smartphone apps described below claim to collect and store reliable data about the origin of such pictures (e.g. time and location) which cannot be tampered with, can be verified and would be admissible in a court of law. They could prove to be useful tools for human rights defenders and advocates.

INFORMACAM

Informacam is a mobile application for Android under development by the Guardian Project which is described as a plug-in for Obscuracam. It will effectively authenticate the pictures and videos using the built-in sensors in a modern smart phone as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell tower information to create a snapshot of the environment in which an image or video was captured. This validates the date, time and location of capture. Digital signatures and encryption ensure that your media hasn't been tampered with and can only be opened by the intended recipient. Advanced users can create sensitive image data and metadata which they can preserve and transmit in encrypted form to trusted entities. They can also keep a redacted version that has had its metadata stripped, which can easily be shared on social media. InformaCam also supports delivery of media to a server through the Tor network, hosted as a Tor Hidden Service. A getting started guide is available at: https://guardianproject.info/informa/gettingstarted/ At present, InformaCam is in the early stages of development, and although it has been made available to users, it comes with a warning: Warning: This project is currently in Alpha release and not ready for critical, high-risk deployment.

STORYMAKER

StoryMaker is a little different from InformaCam in that it is not specifically concerned with authenticating pictures and videos, but more with enabling the user to add details about the incident being recorded. In this respect, it is likely to prove a useful tool for journalists reporting atrocities as well as to human rights defenders. StoryMaker is available from Google Play Story Maker is currently being developed by the Guardian Project and is at Beta release stage, which means that users are invited to report any bugs they may find. The purpose of this app is to enable existing and aspiring journalists, wherever they are located, to produce and publish news reports including video, photo and audio content with their Android phone, as safely and securely as possible. It provides templates and guides to help users prepare professional quality reports for immediate publication. It also enables the stories to be sent securely via Tor (Orbot), which is of particular use to human rights defenders, or, if desired, to publish them on social media.

EYEWITNESS TO ATROCITIES

EyeWitness to Atrocities is an app developed by the International Bar Association to promote the identification, reporting and prosecution of crimes such as genocide, torture, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
It aims to provide a simple and effective way to capture photos and videos which are verifiable and can be used to investigate and prosecute individuals who commit atrocity crimes. A key feature of the app is that it enables users to upload images and video from smart phones to a central secure repository maintained by eyewitness and hosted by LexisNexis. However, once you have done this, it appears that you have very little control over how the information you have supplied is used. The way it works is described in an article on the International Bar Association website. This is the main difference between eyeWitness to Atrocities and InformaCam.
It is very important to read the eyeWitness Privacy Policy before using this app so that you know what you may be letting yourself in for. It tells you how the pictures and data that you supply may be used. There is, however, the proviso that you may, if you wish, remain anonymous, although, if you choose not to do so, you could be called to give evidence in a court of law. The sections on ‘How we use your Information’ and ‘Information Sharing’ are reproduced below as they help to illustrate the way eyeWitness works.

HOW WE USE YOUR INFORMATION

– We will use the information you provide to:

– deliver you the services and information offered through the App and which you request;

– audit the downloading of data via the App;

– seek to investigate and corroborate submitted content;

– where necessary, to bring images, footage or supporting information to the attention of enforcement authorities or agencies or make this material available to the media;

– allow us and our investigating partners (where you have chosen to provide your email address) to contact you directly about the footage you have submitted in order to carry out further verification checks, or to interview you in your capacity as a witness for evidential purposes with respect to the content you upload to us via the App.

INFORMATION SHARING

If you upload content via the App we may, where permitted or required by law, distribute this content to relevant enforcement and criminal and other investigatory bodies and authorities, including legal personnel. Where you have chosen to provide your personal details we may also disclose this information to them so that they can independently verify your content with you. In the event that your footage results in legal action, your information may be disclosed to legal professionals such as prosecutors and defence counsel, as well as to the defendant(s) in such proceedings. Such disclosures may include all the content you make available, and may also include other information you have provided to us such as your name or alias, and location. If you wish to withhold consent for any particular disclosure of your data, you may specify such instructions in the notes that you add to your content prior to uploading it. However, please note that we may not be able to comply with such instructions where disclosure is required by law.

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this article is not to endorse any of the above apps. Its aim is to make human rights defenders and activists aware of their existence so that you can investigate them yourselves and decide which of them, if any, will suit your purposes best. Good advocacy requires that all incidents reported are fully validated and able to stand as evidence in a court of law. InformaCam and StoryMaker enable users to have full control over how the data they collect is used; however, eyeWitness to Atrocities, which has been developed by the International Bar Association, should be approached with caution, although, in the right circumstances, it could prove to be very useful.

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