Tag Archives: leaks

Sometimes we talk to bad people, and they have to trust us – a podcast talking point

Radiolab’s recent podcast The Buried Bodies Case is a brilliant piece of storytelling. The producers’ newsgathering; the choices of elements and how they are arranged; the tight editing and use of silence — all these make for a masterclass in longform narrative that any journalism student would benefit from exploring.

But it’s not that which prompted me to blog about it.

The content of the podcast is perhaps the best exploration of journalist-source ethics I’ve heard, without it actually being about journalists.

Spoiler alert: if you want to enjoy the podcast without knowing where it goes, then stop here, listen to it, and then come back. Continue reading

In the wake of Ashley Madison, towards a journalism ethics of using hacked documents

Got leaks? sign

Got leaks image by Edward Conde

Last week I said we needed an ethical code for dealing with hacking leaks, and promised to explore that.

Now yet another site – “casual sex and cheating network” Ashley Madison – has been hacked and the results leaked, so I thought I’d better deliver.

How do you come up with an ethical framework for dealing with hacked documents? Firstly, it’s useful to look at what concerns are raised when journalists use them.

Looking at previous reporting based on leaked documents these break down into three broad categories:

  1. Firstly, that the information was ‘stolen’ (method)
  2. Secondly, that the motivation behind obtaining the information was tainted (source)
  3. And thirdly, that the information represents an invasion of privacy (effect)

Put another way: people are generally concerned with how the leaked information was obtained, why, and to what effect. Continue reading

Why Hacking Team could be the biggest story of the year – and why it won’t

Early last week it emerged that government cybersecurity supplier Hacking Team had been hacked. An incredible cache of documents and emails – 400GB’s worth – was released on Sunday by the hackers, providing a fascinating – and terrifying – insight into the operations of a company dubbed one of ten “enemies of the internet” by Reporters Without Borders in 2013:

“Their products have been or are being used to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. If these companies decided to sell to authoritarian regimes, they must have known that their products could be used to spy on journalists, dissidents and netizens.”

The Intercept has been one of the most active news websites in digging through the leaked documents. Their stories this week include confirmation that surveillance technology was sold to countries with poor human rights recordsquestions about the FBI, DEA and US Army buying spyware from the company; and a sales push in the UK:

“[A] deal with the London cops, worth £385,000 ($591,000) to Hacking Team, was abruptly halted in in May 2014 following “internal reviews on how we wished to move this area of technology forward,” according to an email from the police, although the force left the door open for a future deal, adding: “Of course in the months/years to come this could change and if that is the case then we would welcome your organization’s participation.”

“Since then, Hacking Team has continued to try to crack the U.K. market. It tried – and apparently failed – to set up a deal with Staffordshire Police after an officer contacted the company seeking technology to “access WiFi points to check users” and infect devices to covertly collect data.”

The next Snowden/Wikileaks?

So we have a story about a massive document leak which concerns the most powerful governments and law enforcement agencies in the world. Sound familiar?

We’ve been here before with Wikileaks, and with the Snowden revelations – two of the biggest stories of the last decade.

Hacking Team could be as big – but one week in and we’re not seeing the coverage we should. And I think that’s because of two things those stories had that Hacking Team doesn’t: a face, and a partner. Continue reading

Interview: president of IRPI Cecilia Anesi talks about secure leaks platform IRPILeaks

IRPI leaks

Last year the Investigative Reporting Italian Project (IRPI) introduced a platform for Italian and international whistleblowers, the first of its kind in the country.

The project has been called IRPILeaks and, like the Dutch PubLeaks and WikiLeaks, is a tool for those want to leak staying anonymous and safe.

IRPI aims to use this anonymity to encourage leaks from people who want to expose misconducts of companies and public authorities. A list of risks they could face in the process is published on IRPI‘s site. Continue reading

Three book reviews: leaks, FOI, and surveillance

Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark book cover
This Machine Kills Secrets book cover

If you’re interested in leaks, surveillance or FOI, three book reviews I wrote over the last two months on the Help Me Investigate blog recently might interest you:

Secure technically doesn’t mean secure legally

The EFF have an interesting investigation into WSJ and Al-Jazeera ‘leaks’ sites and terms and conditions which suggest users’ anonymity is anything but protected:

“Despite promising anonymity, security and confidentiality, AJTU can “share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary.” SafeHouse’s terms of service reserve the right “to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities” without notice, then goes even further, reserving the right to disclose information to any “requesting third party,” not only to comply with the law but also to “protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies” or to “safeguard the interests of others.” As one commentator put it bluntly, this is “insanely broad.” Neither SafeHouse or AJTU bother telling users how they determine when they’ll disclose information, or who’s in charge of the decision.”

Leaks on demand – how the Wikileaks cables are being used

From a leak to a flood

Image by markhillary on Flickr

I’m probably not the only person to notice a curious development in how the Wikileaks material is being used in the press recently. From The Guardian and The Telegraph to The New York Times and The Washington Post, the news agenda is dictating the leaks, rather than the other way around.

It’s fascinating because we are used to seeing leaks as precious journalistic material that forms the basis of some of our best reporting. But the sheer volume of Wikileaks material – the vast majority of which still remains out of the public domain – has turned that on its head, with newsrooms asking: “Do the leaks say anything on Libya/Tunisia/Egypt?”

When they started dealing with Wikileaks data some newsrooms built customised databases to allow them to quickly find relevant documents. Recent events have proved that – not to mention the recruitment of staff who can quickly interrogate that data – to be very wise.