Anonymous Camera

2020

iOS camera app that allows for real-time anonymisation of photos and videos.

About

Anonymous Camera is a side project designed and developed together with London-based Playground Systems in close collaboration with investigative journalists and activism groups.


Role

Product Designer & Front-End Engineer

Tooling

Swift & Figma

About

Anonymous Camera is a side project designed and developed together with London-based Playground Systems in close collaboration with investigative journalists and activism groups.


Role

Product Designer & Front-End Engineer

Tooling

Swift & Figma

About

Anonymous Camera is a side project designed and developed together with London-based Playground Systems in close collaboration with investigative journalists and activism groups.


Role

Product Designer & Front-End Engineer

Tooling

Swift & Figma

Design Challenge

Over the last years, we could observe that people have become more aware of what private information about themselves they want to share with the world.


A good illustration we could witness is protesters hiding their faces with umbrellas from government surveillance cameras to protect themselves from facial recognition systems, which we could see in Hong Kong in 2019. The demand to have agency over how or if someone gets recorded did not only show in those high-risk situations; also online people learned to be more cautious of what they want to share and with whom. As a result, several laws to ensure peoples 'right to be forgotten' have been introduced.


After talking to journalists & user researchers that collect information from interviewees for a living and eventually furthermore document their respondents, we formulated the following goal:


We want to create a safe workflow for journalists, activists, and researchers to minimize the amount of personally identifiable information collected in high-stakes situations at the point of capture & we needed to build the tool to communicate a feeling of trust and safety for interviewees.

Recording

Video showing anonymous camera's recording feature

Based on research with journalists, user researchers, and activists we formulated some core principles as a decision-making basis to enable our users to take anonymized photos & videos.

🐰 recording needs to be quick

In research, we heard from our users that they are often faced with unforeseen situations that they quickly record with their phones. Therefore a recording feature should be available as soon as users open the app. It also should be externally consistent with other camera apps to support ease of learning.

🛟 the safest option is the default one

Recording safely is the main reason why users would want to use 'anonymous camera'. As a result of this, the color block filter, destroying the most original data compared to only blur, is selected by default.

🚦 color indicates safety

We replaced a color-for-interaction principle with a color-for-safety principle to align with and focus on our product goal. Therefore when no filter is selected its 'color' is white and not yellow.

Adapted for landscape recording & power feature: interview mode

How might we create a feeling of trust for interviewees?

Creating a feeling of trust & safety towards 'anonymous camera' was a crucial part of the experience and it was one of my main responsibilities in this project.


One source of inspiration was the airplane safety pamphlet. While of course not a lot of people read those, they have one interesting trait: People can always get back to them if they are interested. And that is already a major advantage over most of the privacy policies we see out there today. Many of them make people agree to their policies in the beginning and after that, these policies are buried deep down the app hierarchy.

Another thing about those safety cards is that essentially they tell you how to operate complicated interactions that you’re not using frequently in a quite concise manner and that’s exactly what we needed to communicate as well.


The goal was to create a virtual safety & privacy card, that users can always refer back to explain everything we do (or don't do) with their data.

Video showing safety & privacy information within the app

✈️ "Try us in flight mode!"

One of my favorite things is, that we encourage our users to use the app in flight mode / offline to show that nothing gets stored in the cloud

⁉️ FAQ for important questions

The questions reflect the most asked questions during test mode, so we decided to answer those directly in the app.

🧑‍⚖️ Link to legal documents

The legal documents were designed with and written by lawyers. Our intention was to make critical information easiy to consume and available in the top-level card.

One thing for the privacy card, that has not shipped yet is an experience that we’ve been working on together quite closely with the Knight Foundation. The idea was to create a section in the privacy card for investigative journalists who go into the field with this app and need to explain the concept of face recognition and anonymization to someone who’s never heard about these concepts before.


The journalist would often need to do that in a foreign language that they do not speak, or in English which in a lot of cases makes it impossible to understand for the participant.


Therefore we’ve been working on this 3 step experience that allows the journalist to pass over the phone to the interviewee and explore for themselves in their native language what the app does and how it makes sure that their footage is safe.

Image showing how we imagine the interviewee guide

Reflection

1 Context

A radical approach of data-minimisation (by design) means we have to interpret very blunt metrics and rely on stories from our users in the field.

2 Quantiative

75,000+ overall Downloads

3 Qualitative

Used by the world’s leading organisations in the field to fight corruption in Romania or provide medical services in sub-Saharan Africa.

4 Interesting

Download peaks during times of crisis (most recently in Russia/Ukraine/Belarus)

5 Investigative Journalist, Paul Radu:

"The app builds an instant layer of trust and safety that is very important."