Filmmakers are subject to a very real and scary threat because their cameras do not include encryption. Having un-encrypted media seized is such a key threat that action is being taken by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. They have asked leading camera brands to release cameras with built-in encryption to protect their media. The only secure method that filmmakers and photojournalists have to protect their media is to load their work onto a computer with password-protected files. Being able to consistently load and protect work in the middle of filming isn’t always viable.
Filmmakers working with sensitive or private material live in fear of their media being confiscated. The seizure of cameras and film happens so often “that we could not realistically track all [the] incidents,” says Freedom of the Press Foundations activism director Courtney Radsch. Filmmakers and photojournalists often risk their lives to get groundbreaking footage of information and events. Frequently, there are people in direct opposition who do not want sensitive information to be released. Criminals, local police, or intelligence agents can seize memory cards or cameras, leaving the filmmaker empty handed and sometimes in danger. Filmmaker Andrew Berends was forced to swallow his SIM card to prevent police from identifying his informants in his documentation of the conflict in the Niger Delta. Many filmmakers and photojournalists have gone to extremes to protect their media, none of which would be necessary with encrypted cameras.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation is taking action by appealing to leading camera brands such as Canon, Fuji, and Nikon, to come out with encrypted still photo and video cameras. They have written a letter explaining the necessity and 150 filmmakers and photojournalists have signed it. Some of the signees include Academy Award nominees such as Laura Poitras and Joshua Oppenheimer.
Smartphones such as the iPhone come standard with encryption, so it’s easy to see how the next step will be adding this feature to cameras but some technical kinks are still being ironed out. Cameras will need more powerful processors and the issue of physical limitations of buttons to type in passwords will need to be addressed. While no encrypted cameras exist on the market as of yet, this move would be a much needed security feature for filmmakers and photojournalists alike.