UPDATE: 1630 Friday 2nd March 2012 - the BBC appears to have now censored the 5 seconds or so of the Wireless Networking screenshot in the iPlayer clip, but the web page article does not (yet) mention this update.
Can being interviewed by a mainstream news media journalist put your life in danger ?
The BBC website has an interesting video clip, presumably from Reuters, judging by the copyright logo, which can be viewed via the BBC iPlayer:
1 March 2012 Last updated at 16:02
Two Syrian activists have spoken about how they have become citizen journalists in their bid to get footage of the government crackdown out of the country.
Speaking from the town of Al Qusair, near the border with Lebanon, the men, who gave their names as Mohammad and Abu Abdallah, said slow internet speeds were hampering their efforts.
However for about 5 seconds , about 1 minute into the video clip there is a shocking
potential betrayal of Sensitive Personal Data, which could be used by the Syrian dictatorship to help to hunt down these activists exact current location or identities.
These Syrian activists (three people shown, only two speaking) are not hiding their faces or voices from the camera, but that is still does not excuse either Reuters or the BBC, for failing to recognise the potential anonymity, privacy , security and personal safety dangers of filming and broadcasting / publishing online, the unique and easily trackable MAC Address of a Mobile Phone obviously used by these activists.
[MAC address censored by Spy Blog in the image above]
JoikuSpot is a smartphone applet which allows the (slow and expensive) mobile phone internet connection of a Nokia mobile phone to be "tethered", thereby sharing it out to local personal computers etc. via the (faster, free) WiFi Wireless Networking built into the phone handset.
By default (unless the mobile phone application software and / or the phone settings are amended) the MAC Address of this mobile phone WiFi Access Point includes the mobile phone handset in its WiFi SSID (Service Set identifier) the "name" of the WiFi network spawned from this phone.
Obviously this could be used to help track down the physical location of the Syrian activists hideout (either directly by triangulating from the WiFi signals from the named WiFi Access Point SSID, or by cross referencing the phone's MAC Address with Mobile Phone records). If any of these activists , or anyone else, is arrested and found to be in possession of this particular phone, then the BBC / Reuters will have provided prima facie evidence against them of their involvement in this "underground news" organisation (i.e. "foreign spies" so far as the dictatorship is concerned)
Surely this breaks, probably through ignorance and carelessness, rather than malice, the BBC's Guidelines on Fairness and Anonymity ?
Effective obscuring of identity may require more than just anonymity of a face. Other distinctive features, including hair, clothing and voice may need to be taken into account. Blurring rather than pixellation, which can be reversed, is the best way of ensuring anonymity in pictures. When disguising a voice, using a 'voice-over' by another person is usually better than technically induced distortion, which can be reversed, but audiences should be told what they are hearing.
To avoid any risk of 'jigsaw identification' (that is, revealing several pieces of information in words or images that can be pieced together to identify the individual), our promises of anonymity may also need to include, for example, considering the way a contributor or source is described, blurring car number plates, editing out certain pieces of information (whether spoken by the contributor or others) and taking care not to reveal the location of a contributor's home. Note that, in some circumstances, avoiding the 'jigsaw effect' may require taking account of information already in the public domain.
We may need to disguise the identity of international contributors to meet our obligations of anonymity or if their safety may be compromised. Third party websites may reproduce our content globally without our knowledge or consent.
There is also nothing about the dangers broadcasting or the internet publishing of such screen shots of computer credentials in the Reuters Handbook of Journalism either.