When Laura Poitras was shooting her award-winning documentary “Citizenfour” in June 2013, she was very anxious that any time CIA or NSA would barge into her hotel room and will snatch the recording. So she was continuously transferring her all the data to an encrypted hard disk and then also destroying the data card in which she recorded the documentary. “When you’re in the field filming and your camera is taken by authorities, that footage is completely vulnerable,” Poitras says. “That’s where encryption is really needed.” She was filming one of the most wanted person at that time- Edward Snowden, who just revealed that NSA is collecting telecom data from all the cellular companies across the globe. Most phone cameras come equipped with encryption to store the data, and encrypted storage is both reliable and safe. Camera manufacturers don’t do encryption and so content with the journalists and the documentary makers is at huge risk.
Poitras, even before filming with Snowden, was repeatedly detained at the US border and had her cameras and computers seized after she was put on a watch list due to her filmmaking in wartime Iraq. Filmmaker Andrew Berends in 2008 swallowed a SIM card from his cellphone in an attempt to prevent Nigerian police from identifying the sources who had helped him to document conflict in the Niger Delta. And when Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia was detained for three weeks by dictator Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in 2012, he says that encrypting his hard drive “saved his life.” Beyond filmmakers, photojournalists are just as vulnerable. The Committee to Protect Journalists says seizures of photojournalists’ cameras and other devices occur so often “that we could not realistically track all these incidents,” according to the group’s activism director Courtney Radsch.
Poitras and 150 other documentary filmmakers have signed and open letter from the Non-Profit freedom of The Press Foundation to camera makers like Nikon, Sony, Canon and Kodak asking these companies to add the encryption features missing from virtually every standalone camera on the market, so that no thief, cop, or border agent can access their footage simply by grabbing the device out of their hands. The Press Foundation has both Poitras and Ed Snowden on their board of directors.
Visit the link to read the letter.