Mobile Phones

Citizens have been turning to what’s in their pocket – their mobile phones – to document the events in their lives since the introduction of the camera phone. However, an increasing trend is happening: Citizens are using their phones when they are in the wrong place at the wrong time to document everything from planes landing in a river to human rights abuses and police misconduct.

In addition, activists are using their phones to capture statements of support for their campaigns on video or via an audio-recording function – and with photos of actions and people holding signs of support. If you’re reading this post, there’s a high probability you have a mobile phone within a few feet of you – or you know someone that does. Find a phone with the ability to capture photos or audio and start using it to support your advocacy! If you’re already convinced and ready to go, check out Tips on How To Film With Your Mobile Phone.

Why use a mobile phone to support your advocacy?

  • You can find one – either you have one or you can probably find someone who does
  • You can quickly create, and sometimes edit video content, from one device
  • You can share your content immediately – either sending to others via the phone (eg. Bluetooth) or potentially put it straight online via YouTube or other services
  • You can carry it with you all the time (and hide it if needed)
  • You can create compelling content at very little cost
  • You can invite people to share their stories, testimonies and calls for action to support your campaign!

What you need

  • Mobile phone – Any phone with photo or video capability will do. The quality of the media you record, and how you can share it ranges widely, so evaluate your phone to see how you can get the most out of it
  • SIM card – The SIM card is used to store information on your mobile phone, including its phone number. An unregistered, prepaid SIM card provides the most anonymity. In some countries you do not have to register when you buy a phone. The SIM card must be registered to a mobile phone network before you can send video. However you can record video and send by Bluetooth or transfer onto a computer without registering with a phone network.
  • Memory card – Memory cards provide extra capacity for storing recorded video clips. They are compact, rugged and easily swapped when full. They come in several types — such as SD, miniSD, microSD, M2, microM2 — so make sure to check which kind your phone needs. They are also used in digital cameras, video game consoles and music players; so, you may be able to use one you already have.
  • External microphone – The mobile phone’s built-in microphone may not give high audio quality when recording video, as it is designed for making phone calls. It works best for very close sounds, when pointed towards the camera person rather than at what is being filmed. You may be able to use an external microphone when recording. This could be the microphone on the phone’s headset, connected either by a cable or by Bluetooth. You may also be able to attach a self-powered microphone, usually with a phono adapter, to the phone’s AV socket.
  • Memory card reader – A memory card reader allows you to transfer data quickly from the phone to a computer. The memory card is taken out of the mobile phone and put into the card reader, which attaches to a computer with a USB cable.
  • USB cable – Many mobile phones have a USB socket. A USB cable allows you to transfer data quickly from the mobile phone to a computer.

Safety and security note: Mobile phones can be used anonymously in most countries if they are prepaid (also known as Pay As You Go) rather than on a contract, and unregistered. However calls on mobile phones and the phone’s location can be traced through the mobile network provider. And if your phone is seized it may contain personal information such as contacts, telephone call logs, texts sent and received, and photographs.

In some situations, filming may compromise your safety. Here are some steps you can take.

  • Preserve your anonymity — use a pre-paid non-contract phone, and unregistered SIM card and top-up cards. Supporters can buy top-up cards on behalf of the phone user and send the phone user the top-up access code by voice or text.
  • Protect your personal information — if the phone may be seized, do not store personal information such as contacts, photos, call records, outgoing text messages. It may be sensible to have two phones and use one of them just for filming.
  • Delete backed up videos — once the video clips have been transferred to a computer or another phone, delete them from your own phone or swap out the memory card.
  • Hide your location — a mobile phone has functions other than recording video. When it is switched on it connects to the mobile network provider’s base station and reveals its location. Also the phone may have a GPS application.
  • You can keep the phone turned off with its battery removed when not in use, and not enable the GPS application.

What’s Next? Flip Cameras

Additional Resources

Filming With Your Mobile Phone and How to Stream Video From Your Mobile Phone

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