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Secure My Video Guide

by Andrew Garton

Welcome to the Secure My Video Guide, the first stage in our effort to provide video activists with tools to make their work safe and secure. The Secure My Video Guide has an Indonesian focus, however, the issues and strategies recommended are universal. This Guide is a work in progress and your input is encouraged. If you wish to contribute to its ongoing development, simply write your thoughts, ideas, corrections and recommendations as comments to this blog. The most recent draft of the Guide is available below in both editable .odt and .pdf formats.

Secure My Video Guide is contributing to best practice tactics ensuring the publication and access to social justice video is secure under volatile conditions.

Video surveillance sign, Tallinn, Sweden. (Photo by Hans Põldoja, CC BY)
Video surveillance sign, Tallinn, Sweden. (Photo by Hans Põldoja, CC BY)

This work-in-progress guide is the result of a one day sprint held in Jakarta on 27 July 2011. Where possible, information gathered during the sprint has been reviewed, cross-referenced, re-drafted and added to the most appropriate issues and solutions. Where possible, the guide provides recommendations for how best to deal with them. In other instances, the guide points to where additional research is required, or where outstanding questions may best be answered.

We did not set out to provide answers to all the questions raised nor provide a comprehensive response to all the issues videographers face. What we did achieve, however, is a contribution towards the work being done by groups such as WITNESS and Tactical Tech, specifically noting the issues faces by video activists in Indonesia.

What was clear from this process was the need for more training, and more consciousness-raising. There is a paucity of security and media literacy knowledge in Indonesia, there is even less access to the skills to secure video from inception through to distribution and archiving.

As an open work-in-progress we encourage the ongoing development through review and contributions from our networks, friends and colleagues of EngageMedia’s Secure Video Guide. Download the preview and working files, or read on and comment below.


An impossible to imagine number people and plenty of utilities, it seems, are doing video. Children, teachers, sports professionals, activists, workers and the unemployed, radio and print journalists, the police, military and security firms are all swinging cameras somewhere on planet earth. In many countries now we are videoed in trains, elevators, in our cars in traffic, from the skies and even from space!

Video has become, as Witness’s Sam Gregory describes, spreadable, mailable and accessible by more means than ever. It has become, in less than half a decade, ubiquitous. It’s portable, potent and powerful. Hollywood and the largest media corporations in the world, Disney and News Limited, no longer command the public’s total attention at the screen. No country and no individual is immune from the lens.

In a country where internet security issues are either unknown or are not taken seriously, where more and more people are using video to document abuses and record first-hand testimonials, and where Facebook has become the internet for millions of citizens, the means to both securely publish and access video in and from Indonesia is more critical than ever.

Along with the opportunities afforded by new technologies, there too are the threats. Creators of social justice video, for instance, can be located if they use an internet cafe and are not aware of how easily their location can be traced.

Police officers in Washington video protesters, April 11, 2011. Photo by Andrew Bossi, CC BY-NC-SA

The video they carry on USB sticks can be read on any computer and the people they capture on video may not be aware that they could be seen by thousands of people, all over the world, including the perpetrators of the injustices they may describe or have been subjected to. Anonymity and consent are little understood in Indonesia.

People have a right to free expression, but they too ought to have the right to anonymity should they wish it. Being seen and heard is one thing, being recognised and literally hunted down is another. It happens. Israeli authorities used Facebook to gather names of pro-Palestinian protesters and had them black-listed to prevent them from travelling to Isreal. Iran’s authorities scrutinised mobile phone footage on Youtube to identify demonstrators whom they later arrested along with passers-by who just happened to be in the shot. Iranians are also using crowdsourcing, a common social networking technique, encouraging the general public to identify alleged protesters in photos and video found on the web. A more recent initiative has seen the general public swarm to Tumblr and Facebook offering their videos and photos of the hockey riots in Vancouver that raises serious questions about “name and shaming” and whether this constitutes “vigilantism or community policing.”

In addition to these ethical issues, many of which are being tackled through international forums and public discussion at every conceivable opportunity, there are immediate concerns regarding the day to day practise of video activists. For example, video files can be large and they can take time to upload. Getting them to a server from an internet cafe in Aceh, for example, can pose problems, particularly if connections are not secure, or more commonly, slow and costly. People need to be prepared, they need time and they need to be anonymous. Additionally, once online how secure and / or reliable is the site one publishes to? Youtube looks like a public space, but it isn’t. Facebook encourages openness and sharing, but why does Julian Assange describe it as “the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented?”

As more video is produced and as more people, from all sectors of society use what ever means available to them hold up their cameras and send their images across networks and devices the means to do so ethically and securely needs to be both understood and readily available. The Secure My Video Guide contributes to this pool of knowledge and resources.

Indonesian context

(Compiled from VIDEOCHRONIC and GISWatch 2011 Indonesia Country Report)

Since 2000 Indonesia has seen a dramatic increase in the use of video as a social change tool by community, campaign and activist organisations. Access to the tools for producing video has become increasingly democratised over this period, and rapidly adopted. Since the fall of Suharto’s New Order regime, space has been opened up for a host of new media projects to emerge. Individuals and organisations dealing with issues such as the environment, human rights, queer and gender issues, cultural pluralism, militarism, poverty, labour rights, globalisation and more have embraced video as a tool to communicate with both their bases and new audiences.

Camera phone in Kebayoranbalu, Jakarta. (Photo by nSeika, CC BY-NC-SA)
Camera phone in Kebayoranbalu, Jakarta. (Photo by nSeika, CC BY-NC-SA)

The experience of the 1998 political uprising that overthrew the Suharto regime demonstrated the power of digital video in generating extensive socio-political changes by mobilising people in support of a new government. In the build-up to the end of the regime, footage of the shootings of Trisakti University students in Jakarta, much of which was ‘amateur’ footage shot by bystanders, was aired on the television inside and outside Indonesia. These images sparked sentiments of national solidarity, leading to mass student protests in several cities across Indonesia, denouncing the New Order regime.

However, today, without the same momentum of mass direct action on the streets that characterised the end of the 20th century in Indonesia, the ways that video can be used to affect change are more ambiguous. Realising that they cannot rely on the foreign press to expose humiliating human rights violation cases, campaigners push their videos through other avenues, such as EngageMedia, YouTube, and Facebook, where, instead of relying on news corporation producers activists can become the producers and distributors themselves. In becoming more independent, however, this also shifts their responsibilities, particularly concerns regarding security, both in relation to themselves and whomever they bring to screens across the planet.

Not only is there little knowledge of internet and digital data security issues throughout Indonesia, but there is also a poor understanding of the implications of uninformed consent, particularly in the case of footage that could undermine the security of those interviewed and bystanders who just happened to be in the shot.

With broadband concentrated in major capitals, inconsistent internet access elsewhere, humidity that can play havoc with all forms of data storage from tape to the organic dye layer of writable CD-ROM and DVDs and increasingly sophisticated forms of digital surveillance pervading social media spaces the challenges are many, but not insurmountable.


This work in progress guide would not have been possible without the support and participation of the following:

Sam Gregory and Chap Day (WITNESS), Yerry Niko Borang, Enrico Aditjondro, Alexandra Crosby, Cheekay Cinco and Andrew Lowenthal (EngageMedia), Ahmad Yunus (WatchDoc), Wempie (JPIC), Lexy (Off Stream), Ahmad Aminudin, Ian Keikai, Donny Budhi Utoyo (ICT Watch).

Secure My Video Guide was researched and edited by Andrew Garton (EngageMedia)