About ObscuraCam

ObscuraCam is an application for Android devices which was created from the need to quickly obscure the faces of people in photos and videos taken by smart phones, specifically Android devices. ObscuraCam is a useful tool to those documenting social movements and working in the area of human rights.

ObscuraCam was first conceived at the Open Video Conference at a hackday session. The project was later developed and completed as a partnership between WITNESS, a Human Rights organisation focusing on the use of cameras and the Guardian Project, who develop mostly Android technology with a focus on serving social movements.

What you can do with ObscuraCam

The key job of ObscuraCam is to recognise and to obscure faces in still images and videos taken by Android devices. 


Other chapters in this guide will detail exactly how to use ObscuraCam to select and obscure areas of your photos and videos. 

Alternative methods exist to do the same thing exist in desktop or online applications. It is possible to use tracking and blurring effects in video editing applications like Premiere, FCP and Kdenlive. There is also an emerging feature to blur and obscure faces in YouTube.

The advantage of ObscuraCam over these other methods is the ability to obscure your footage immediately after taking it on the same device and without using complicated video editing software. This greatly reduces the risk of being apprehended with sensitive footage.

Who can benefit from ObscuraCam

OscuraCam was developed primarily to serve those in social movements using mobile devices to document human rights abuses and witnessing oppression. Phones and tablets have become a key tool in the toolkit of those working towards positive social change. Video and images are a powerful part of movement building. The appeal of immediately posting newsworthy images to tell our side of the story and gain attention to our campaigns is understandable but needs to be balanced with good sense about protecting our sources and colleagues.   

There is a temptation to prioritise convenience and speed over good practice especially when using mobile devices. We may install applications or use web services by because they 'just work' without full evaluating the risks associated or the policies of the companies providing them. 

Use of mobile devices can increase some risks. They store images and video which if it enters the wrong hands could incriminate your contacts / colleagues. Many governments devote a lot of resources to gathering information on their citizens. Convictions and oppression of activists involving the use of data from seized mobile phones and uploaded footage is now widespread.

When footage is uploaded to video sharing sites, this allows authorities to build a visual database of opponents. These kinds of resources can and have been used to oppress and intimidate individuals. This issue is well covered by WITNESS in their report Cameras Everywhere and this post on Visual Anonymity.

In this climate it is now the duty of a wide range of activists, campaigners and others to take security seriously and use good practice as part of our everyday activities.