Being active in human rights can be dangerous. Every so often, we here stories of activists who have gone missing under suspicious circumstances. An armband with an inbuilt GPS tracker is now looking to offer protection.
The Natalia Project, named after Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirowa who went missing in north Caucasus in 2009 and was later found dead, looks to protect activists by way of a bracelet. In emergency situations, the armband can send a signal via GPS to the central station in Stockholm. If the armband is violently removed from the wearer, an automatic call for help will be sent with information about the time and coordinates of where the signal originated from. Parallel to this, the activist community will also be alerted to the signal via Facebook and Twitter. With so many avenues to relay information, the system can help garner a great deal of attention in a short amount of time as well help get nearby assistance quickly to the location.
The Natalia Project released its first armband in April 2013 and to date, there are 17 activists who use the band. The team's goal of having 55 active bracelets in use by the end of 2014 will most likely need to be pushed back, due primarily to financial and logistical burden. Firstly, the system itself needs to be financed. Secondly, an emergency response team must also be made available after a possibly triggered alarm (and this team needs to be sought out and briefed in advance and then ready to go at a moment's notice). One thing is certain, however: with the help of the social media community, emergency calls from activists will be transmitted within seconds around the globe which is without doubt a great advantage of so-called sousveillance technology.
The video below details the principles of the project: observation; reaction; and engagement.