The Business of Child Advocacy

Turning a Tech Talk into a ’Nology Walk

A photo of three old VHS tapes.

When I sat down to write this post, I had just returned home from visiting a child advocacy center after training their team on a new cloud-based video management solution. The CAC I visited conducts more than 2,000 child forensic interviews per year, and my mind was full with all the ways CACs can benefit from cloud technology.

“What are you doing this morning, Mom?” my 9-year-old daughter Gabi asked. I told her that I was going to write an article about cloud security to help protect the privacy of kids like her and the wonderful people that help them.

Me:      What should I call it? I was thinking Tech Talk. What do you think?
Gabi:    How about ’Nology Walk?
Me:      Wow, that’s interesting. How did you come up with that?
Gabi:    Well, you said Tech, so I said ’Nology. You said Talk, so I said Walk.

Kids naturally look at the world and think about what comes next. Unfortunately for us grown-ups, changing something we’re used to can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to technology.

Like our children are so good at doing, we must look into the future and learn how to adapt to meet the challenges ahead.

When it comes to cloud security, many child advocacy centers (CACs) are still unsure of the advantages of moving to a new solution.

It can be particularly daunting when considering how to manage child forensic interviews. But, it’s important to consider that physical data degrades over time and that it is only discoverable if the equipment still exists to play it. When was the last time you saw a VHS machine?

Legal proceedings based on forensic interviews can last a lifetime. With no statute of limitation, it is a daunting task for agencies to maintain custody of original content to support future cases. There are far too many opportunities for cases to be dismissed based on a defense claim of mishandling of evidence when physical copies can be easily duplicated and distributed.

In today’s world, we trust our financials and health care records to companies using cloud technology, but for some reason, when it comes to managing records at the office, an unlocked filing cabinet or bookshelf with DVDs seems safer because we can “see them.” Physically looking at hard drives and on-premise servers, knowing forensic interviews are nearby, can provide a false sense of security for many CACs and multidisciplinary team members. Here are three things to consider when reviewing your forensic video protocol and technology infrastructure:

  • Does your existing system allow you to revoke and grant access digitally? Cloud technology allows for digital rights management (DRM), which can include the ability for you to grant or remove permissions on an individual basis for each and every play of a video. For example, a forensic interviewer can instantly send notice to a detective that they have a new video to watch and can even set a specific expiration date on the access to that video. If a CAC Intake Coordinator sends a video to a prosecutor who is no longer on the case, the file can immediately be revoked. If a detective was previously authorized to view the forensic interview of a 5-year-old victim and she suddenly goes out on medical leave, that video can be transferred to her partner to ensure there is no delay in the case. In fact, even details about the case (called metadata) and other files such as attachments can be shared digitally in a secured, protected environment.
  • How can you ensure that only the person who had permission to view a video was the one viewing it? Cloud security includes many features built to protect from unauthorized access, including multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA means that before users can access data they need to verify their identity in two ways, such as first logging in with their email address and password and then getting a one-time numeric code sent to their mobile phone that only they have, which must be entered into the system at sign in to confirm identity. This method is often used by the banking industry and now is available to CACs to secure access to forensic videos and interview details. In addition to MFA, the cloud-based video management system we created includes 12 additional layers of security.
  • Can you tell if and when a video was watched? With cloud computing, every action can be logged in the historical records of the digital file. That means a complete chain of custody can always be available in real time, including the date, time, and location of viewing, handling, sharing, or managing the interview. There is no need for signatures, as the digital tokens create a trail that is completely tamper-proof and much more comprehensive than a traditional pen and paper version. Now, forensic interviewers are empowered to know if and when each MDT member watched it along with the defense attorney upon court order. Custodians can ensure that no one else can send the files to others as they are protected in a secure system with complete access control.

So, what should it be? A Tech Talk? Or a ’Nology Walk? Are you clinging to the familiar or imagining what comes next?

Whatever you call it, I hope you come away with a better understanding of how today’s cloud can protect and secure forensic interviews. It can speed up your processes and reduce your costs, minimizing the chance for human error and allowing your center to serve more children with the same amount of resources. It can even ensure better compliance and facilitate the important labor of not only the multidisciplinary team that takes care of our children but also the judicial system and law enforcement agents that work hard to keep all safe. Did you know that cloud technology like VidaNyx can even offer added benefits such as real time closed captioning and transcription?

Interested in learning more? I’d love to meet in person at the 34th Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment. Drop me a line at or call anytime at 206-999-9030.

For more information about cloud security, watch this video from NCA’s 2018 Leadership Conference

Shelly is the co-founder of VidaNyx, a social enterprise incubated at Giving Tech Labs based in Seattle, WA. Giving Tech Labs builds technology and sustainable models to address complex social problems while translating the benefits of cloud computing into everyday language, helping nonprofit leaders and sector practitioners remove barriers and ensure forward progress towards safety, security, privacy, and efficiency through digital tools.