Author Archives: Paul Bradshaw

FAQ: Do you need new ethics for computational journalism?

This latest post in the FAQ series answers questions posed by a student in Belgium regarding ethics and data journalism.

Q: Do ethical issues in the practice of computational journalism differ from those of “traditional” journalism?

No, I don’t think they do particularly – any more than ethics in journalism differ from ethics in life in general. However, as in journalism versus life, there are areas which attract more attention because they are the places we find the most conflict between different ethical demands.

For example, the tension between public interest and an individual’s right to privacy is a general ethical issue in journalism but which has particular salience in data journalism, when you’re dealing with data which names individuals.

I wrote about this in a book chapter which I’ve published in parts on the blog. Continue reading

Transfer rumours, robot journalism and The Guardian: when it makes sense to put a poll BEFORE the article

Football transfer rumours  Daley Blind to Manchester United    Football   theguardian.com

Nice work by The Guardian (above) in their online reporting on transfer rumours: readers of each report are presented with a vote on whether they think the rumour is likely to be true before they get to read the full article.

It’s a good example of putting interactivity – and distribution – front and centre when the headline has already done most of the editorial work. Continue reading

So Google scans email for dodgy images – should we be worried about scanning for sensitive documents?

Gmail logo

You could be forgiven for not having heard of John Henry Skillern. The 41 year old is facing charges of possession and promotion of child pornography after Google detected images of child abuse on his Gmail account.

Because of his case we now know that Google “proactively scours hundreds of millions of email accounts” for certain images. The technology has raised some privacy concerns which have been largely brushed aside because, well, it’s child pornography.

Sky’s technology correspondent Tom Cheshire, for example, doesn’t think it is an invasion of our privacy for “technical and moral reasons”. But should journalists be worried about the wider applications of the technology, and the precedent being set?

Continue reading

Four examples of different threat models

My post on threat models for journalists is quite lengthy, so I thought I’d put the sample threat models from that in their own, separate post. Here they are – note that these are very simple, sketchy threat models and you would want to expand on these. But hopefully they provide a starting point.

What info do you want to keep? Passwords. Why might someone want it? To spam. What can they do? Guess password, phishing. What might happen? Damage to brand, trust.

A basic threat model for anyone with access to a key social media account – or colleagues who do.

What info do you want to keep? Communication with sources. Why might someone want it? To prevent publicaiton, smear. What can they do? Guess/hack password, phishing, legal avenues. What might happen? Story killed, credibility, trust.

This is an example of a threat model for anyone who deals with protestors, complainants, or others who might be targets of others

What info do you want to keep? Identity/location of sources. Why might someone want it? To intimidate, attack, smear. What can they do? Guess/hack password, phishing, metadata, mobile trail, more. What might happen? Source attacked, imprisoned, trust.

When dealing with whistleblowers, leaks, or sources in oppressive regimes, you need to protect identity and location. Here’s a sample threat model for that.

What info? Documents. Why? To prevent publication, identify sources. What can they do? Guess, hack, phish passwords for cloud services. Legal avenues etc. What might happen? Story killed, credibility damaged, sources don't trust.

When working with documents, you may need to prevent others getting access to them. Here’s a sample threat model for that.

Why every journalist should have a threat model (with cats)

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you

If you’re a journalist in the 21st century you have two choices: you can choose to be paranoid, or you can choose to be delusional.

The paranoid journalist assumes that someone is out to get them. The delusional journalist assumes that no one is.

In this post I will explain why and how every journalist – whether you’re a music reporter or a political correspondent – can take a serious and informed look at their security and arrive at a reasonable evaluation of risks and safeguards.

Don’t panic. I promise that by the end of this piece you will be less anxious about security, and no longer paranoid. I also promise to use lots of lolcats. Continue reading

Over 1000 journalists are now exploring scraping techniques. Incredible.

Scraping for Journalists book coverLast week the number of people who have bought my ebook Scraping for Journalists passed the 1,000 mark. That is, to me, incredible. A thousand journalists interested enough in scraping to buy a book? What happened?

When I first began writing the book I imagined there might be perhaps 100 people in the world who would be interested in buying it. It was such a niche subject I didn’t even consider pitching it to my normal publishers.

Now it’s so mainstream that the 1000th ‘book’ was actually 12: purchased by a university which wanted multiple copies for its students to borrow – one of a number of such institutions to approach me to do so.  Continue reading