Photo via UNclimatechange on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license

Over 150 photojournalists, filmmakers and media professionals have signed an open letter addressed to major camera manufacturers, asking them to add encryption to their products. While many of the storage devices and computers photographers use to store files offer encryption, the cameras themselves do not. 

The letter points out that when a photojournalist's camera or memory card is stolen or confiscated, which happens regularly, their footage and images are left exposed and vulnerable, potentially putting the photographer and their sources in real danger. Encryption is commonplace in smartphones, messaging apps and many operating systems, but not in image capture devices or memory cards.

The letter is addressed to Canon, but the Freedom of the Press Foundation says they've sent similar copies to Nikon, Fujifilm, Sony and Olympus. You can see the body of the letter below; head to Freedom of the Press Foundation's website to see the full list of signees. 

Dear Canon,

We, the undersigned documentary filmmakers and photojournalists, are writing to urge your company to build encryption features into your still photo and video camera products. These features, which are currently missing from all commercial cameras on the market, are needed to protect our safety and security, as well as that of our sources and subjects worldwide.

Without encryption capabilities, photographs and footage that we take can be examined and searched by the police, military, and border agents in countries where we operate and travel, and the consequences can be dire.

We work in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, often attempting to uncover wrongdoing in the interests of justice. On countless occasions, filmmakers and photojournalists have seen their footage seized by authoritarian governments or criminals all over the world. Because the contents of their cameras are not and cannot be encrypted, there is no way to protect any of the footage once it has been taken. This puts ourselves, our sources, and our work at risk.

Many technology companies have in recent years embraced encryption technology, often including it in their products and enabling it by default. Indeed, encryption has, in some sectors, become an industry-best practice. Apple’s iPhones encrypt all data stored on them by default, as do many phones running Google’s Android operating system; text messages and voice calls made with WhatsApp, iMessage, FaceTime, and Signal are all protected using end-to-end encryption technology; and laptops and desktop computers running modern versions of Microsoft Windows and macOS encrypt all data stored by default too.

However, we face a critical gap between the moment we shoot our footage and the first opportunity to get that footage onto more secure devices.

As filmmakers and photojournalists who value our own safety and the safety of our sources and subjects, we would seek out and buy cameras that come with built-in encryption. Adding these data security features to your product line would give your company a significant competitive advantage over other camera manufacturers, none of whom currently offer this feature.

Beyond the commercial motivation for adding encryption features, we know your company has commendably committed to corporate social responsibility. Building encryption into your products is not just about helping the filmmakers and photojournalists who buy them, but about making the world a better place. As filmmakers and photojournalists, we use our lenses to hold powerful people to account — and ultimately to change society for the better. Encryption features will allow us to continue to tell the most important stories, from some of the most dangerous places in the world.

You can help us reach that goal by starting to work towards building encryption into your camera products.

Thank you for your consideration.

Signed,

Over 150 Filmmakers, Photographers, and Media Workers Around the World