’’Developing long-lasting solutions is not only about the code, but also about how you assess the ethical ramifications’’
Raquel Vazquez Llorente is one the inspiring mentors that will coach the techtalents from all over the world during the #Hackathonforgood. She developed, together with her a team at eyeWitness, an app that verifies, authenticates and safely stores photo and video in a way that complies with the general admissibility requirements of audiovisual evidence in court.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and your work at eyeWitness?
’’I am a Senior Legal Advisor at eyeWitness, an organisation that works at the intersection of technology and international justice. eyeWitness has developed award-winning technology that verifies, authenticates and safely stores photo and video in a way that complies with the general admissibility requirements of audiovisual evidence in court. These digital dossiers are then used in investigations or trials for core international crimes—such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.
While our technology is generally the aspect of eyeWitness that draws the most attention, eyeWitness not only provides the mobile camera app and the system for maintaining a trusted chain of custody, we are also advocates for the material we receive. I am in charge of a legal team that analyses all information received, identifies the appropriate international, regional and/or national bodies to investigate further — sometimes in collaboration with dedicated legal counsel — and liaises with these mechanisms and our partner organisations to ensure the material is acted upon.
I also make sure our backend system stays fit-for-purpose. We work with large amounts of unstructured data, so I work with developers and technologists to continuously improve our workflows, finding new techniques that can help us build dossiers for investigations and trials in different formats and in a more efficient manner.’’
Why did you accept the invitation to mentor tech talents during The Hackathon for Good?
’’It is a great opportunity to meet new talent, explore ideas that I may have overlooked, and also learn more about the challenges that other organisations and institutions face when dealing with data that could be similar to that of eyeWitness. While I’m not a technologist, I think the combination of lawyers and coders can have a great impact in the world, and I’m always happy to discover new ways of collaborating across disciplines.’’
Can you explain the connection between your work and the challenges?
‘‘eyeWitness works only with photo, video and audio recordings that have been captured with our dedicated mobile camera app. Once the footage and the associated metadata is received in our analysis database, it needs to be classified, reviewed and tagged so it can be searchable and subsequently compiled into dossiers relevant to investigators and prosecutors.
At the moment, while the verification and authentication process is done automatically with the technology solution we have developed, the processing of the imagery is done by a pro bono team of lawyers. This hackathon is very relevant to us because any work that is done in advancing the processing of images and any text information that accompanies it—our app allows users to include notes and tagging of people and objects—can be of potential use for an organisation like ours. Similarly, any automated text or semantic analysis that allows for extraction of key information and its visualisation can help us build our dossiers in a more efficient manner.’’
What would your personal advice be for (young) talents to have impact with their data solutions?
‘‘Think about the process as much as the end goal. Developing long-lasting solutions is not only about the code, but also about how you assess the ethical ramifications of the solution you are proposing. This requires understanding the big picture, and not only the particular challenge you can solve with coding. In the case of solutions involving justice, peace or security issues, the stakes are very high, so it’s important that each step of the process has been weighted against potential ethical, legal, and humanitarian concerns.’’