This is a project to create a reliable, secure, and free crowdfilming platform that can be used to shoot videos in places that can not be reached by professional filming crews.
We are a team of professionals with backgrounds ranging form hardware and software engineering to international law and human rights. Our experience includes creating and supporting security systems for a number of Fortune 500 companies as well as governments around the world. Members of our team speak Arabic, traveled to the Middle East on multiple occasions, lived there, and participated in recent uprisings. For this specific project we have joined forces with a network of over 500 civil journalists in Syria, Egypt, and Bahrain who will act as a core of our filming crew as well as help us distribute the cameras on the streets. We have also found a few independent filmmakers to help us process gathered footage and put it together into a documentary.
The Hiding Duck Project:
With money raised on Kickstarter we are planning to fund the scaling up of our infrastructure. We will transform our test proxy server into a cloud server farm to be able to handle at least 50 simultaneous video uploads. We have already talked to a factory in China that tested our camera prototype and gave us a lead time of 5 days for manufacturing of 1000 cameras. Manufactured cameras will be sent into one of a number of ongoing conflict zones in the Middle East. We are in touch with multiple human rights organizations that provide support for human rights activists in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, and elsewhere that will help us deliver the cameras. Director pledgers will be invited to help us make decisions on distributing cameras to specific regions. Over the next few months we will support our proxy server infrastructure, gather recorded footage, and create a first-of-its-kind documentary filmed by hundreds of people, The Hiding Duck.
As soon as the project is complete, we will make the technology available for people who are interested in creating their own crowdfilm. They will be able to purchase secure cameras as well as have access to the decoding software to securely upload videos.
Each camera has been uploaded with custom firmware that prevents unauthorized access to recorded videos. The firmware uses a modified file system to store videos on a MicroSD card. As a measure of personal security, and in order to avoid breaking any importing/exporting laws on encryption technologies, no actual encryption is used. However, unless a key file or our decoding software is used, the card appears to be empty. Additionally there is an option to upload a dummy video to the visible portion of the memory card to divert attention. To anyone unfamiliar with the hidden functionality of the camera, it seems to be broken.
There are two ways to get the footage from the camera. In the first scenario, the file containing the decryption code needs to be copied over to the camera connected via USB. After reconnecting the USB cable, the camera sees the code and unlocks its main storage. In situations when the user doesn't have a code, he can download special decoding software from our website.
The software knows the algorithm being used to record videos and doesn't need a key to recover them. Users have an option of uploading videos to our private YouTube channel or their own YouTube account. This way, the only way to recover videos is either to have a code or upload it on YouTube. In both cases we get links to uploaded videos. In situations when YouTube is blocked (ex. Syria) the software uses cloud based proxy servers that we set up. The videos uploaded under our account will remain unlisted until further approval. Our moderators can view and edit them, apply image stabilization, etc, all using YouTube processing power. When approved and edited, the videos are made public. We can also block uploading footage from any given camera based on its serial number if it is using our resources for irrelevant footage. Users can also securely wipe out a camera's memory after uploading their videos.
Wouldn't people just steal the cameras?
The camera itself has no value. As we are not planning to share access codes with people we don't trust, the only way to recover the footage for them is to use our decoding software and upload it to YouTube. We can also block decoding based on the serial number of the camera if we see that it is being used for irrelevant footage. Besides, even if only 1 out 10 cameras gets in the right hands, we would still have at least 100 cameras providing us with unique video material.
Doesn't everyone have a smartphone by now?
It's definitely not the case for the regions torn apart by a civil war. With most of the conflicts come cellular network outage, Internet shutdowns, and heavy censorship. Most of the people who are able to buy an iPhone flee the region well before it gets ugly around their house. Those who stay and have the knowledge and resources to keep an Internet connection up and circumvent government filtering systems, find it hard to hold a smartphone while being shot at.
Why get in all this trouble with James-Bond kind of security?
We take physical security of people who are filming very seriously. Not only are people with cameras targeted for physical violence, but attempts to destroy footage are frequent. Through deleting files on the camera, hacking into user accounts, and creating false web pages to post videos – there is a constant cat-and-mouse game to release new footage to the world.
What are the technical details of the camera?
Each camera can record 1-2 hours of 480p footage on a single charge splitting it in 10-minute videos and overwriting old files if the memory card is full. The camera supports up to 16gb MicroSDHC cards.
Why are you called The Hiding Duck Project?