Bracelet uses social network to protect civil rights activists


April 7, 2013

The Natalia Project bracelets

The Natalia Project bracelets

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Fighting for human rights is a noble undertaking, but it’s also extremely dangerous in places where that fight isn't about simply arguing over abstractions. Aware of the very real possibility of campaigners being beaten, kidnapped or murdered, Civil Rights Defenders in Stockholm has launched the Natalia Project. Named after Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist who was abducted and murdered in Chechnya in 2009, it’s based on an electronic bracelet that sends a pre-programmed text alarm if activated or forcibly removed.

The bracelet is a wireless assault alarm system intended to immediately draw attention to any assaults on human rights activists. The idea is that in the event of an assault, the wearer can send an alert or the alert is automatically sent if the bracelet is removed by force.

Civil Rights Defenders is bit hazy on the technology, which is understandable. However, it did reveal that it uses GPS and GSM technology and that the bracelet is programmed with "individual protocols for security." In addition to the bracelets, the Natalia Project also encourages people to sign up using Twitter or Facebook to receive weekly updates on the project as well as becoming part of a global alert network.

According to the organization, if a distress signal is activated, it sends a pre-written alert to tell nearby volunteers to respond, as well as to Civil Rights Defenders HQ in Stockholm. This message includes a timestamp and the location based on mobile phone triangulation. Messages about the assault and recommended courses of action are sent via email, SMS, Facebook and Twitter to those who sign on to the project. The hope is that immediate, widespread publicity about an assault will allow the public to bring pressure to bear on behalf of the victim.

Civil Rights Defenders hopes to deploy 30 of the bracelets this year and have 55 in use by 2014. However, only one has been funded so far.

The video below outlines the Natalia Project.

Source: Civil Rights Defenders via Dvice

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Further to an earlier comment involving loss of an arm, what would happen to the electronics if someone were to touch the device with a taser?


Technology very seldom solves social problems. People that perform attacks on civil rights activists usually don't care if something gets public. And even if, it may not have the desired effect: China for example got more restrictive after the Olympic Games brought them bad publicity.

The bracelet just adds a timestamp and a geotag to the ubiquitous message "Human Rights Activist is missing and was probably kidnapped or killed by the oppressors."

We already know all the countries that imprison, torture and kill people because they make use of or propagate basic human rights. But as long as the economical weigh heavier than human rights our governments will smile and shake hands with officials from Russia and China and swallow all the criticism that would be appropriate.


This is a good idea. I think we need a similar system for our children, and scrap the whole RFID chip concept. Hope this saves lives.. or a least gets the 'bad guys' punished.


Giving human rights activists the tools to defend themselves with would do more good.


This article makes me think hard about human rights defenders. The bracelet is an insignia in itself. The concept of activating a wildfire in public outrage appears an effective security device for the people who will use it. Will it be more valued as an insignia?


I don't want to point out a very nasty problem here, what happens if the captors just cut the arm off that the device is on at the time?


I think I see the spirit of the idea. Quoting from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

"Help! Help! I'm Being Repressed!! Come and see the violence inherent in the system."

It might work in some contexts, especially when attending public protests showing opposition to that protest. It could show which side is really civilized. I think less of the device's effectiveness if the oppressors are inclined to kill the user. It still might work in those situations if the enemy isn't sophisticated enough to overcome it. It would be cool if it also uploaded audio and/or video of the user's last moments. Such content could go viral and bring humiliation to those in power at that location. Its a good tool in the right place.

Rustin Haase

@flibb - I imagine cutting off a protester's arm would be the worst possible thing to do from a PR standpoint.


In agreement to the first posting, it doesn't matter if the bracelet is triggered, forcibly removed, tazed, or discarded along with a severed limb. All you've done is to note the last whereabouts of the unfortunate individual. It does nothing to prevent the abduction nor prove who the perpetrators are, not to mention being targeted for wearing a permanent "ha ha look at me, I'm a threat to your regime" sign on your wrist.


There are cheap jammers that scramble GPS and cell phone frequencies. Some are designed to use in a vehicle to block any tracking devices or to prevent the use of GPS and phones.

Toss a person wearing one of these bracelets into the back of a truck with a jammer and the signal just 'goes dark'.

Gregg Eshelman

For a human rights violator won't the answer just be "No arms=No bracelets" they don't have to remove the bracelet from your arm to remove you from it.

Jason Brown
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