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 →
Early last week it emerged that government cybersecurity supplier Hacking Teamhad 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.”
“[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.”
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 →
The project has been called IRPILeaks and, like the Dutch PubLeaksand 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 →
Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark looks at how private companies and police have used infiltration, surveillance, and fake online personas to develop counterstrategies against campaigners which have implications for journalists. I reviewed it here.
“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.”
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.
Computerworld reports on plans by Wikileaks to allow “newspapers, human rights organizations, criminal investigators and others to embed an “upload a disclosure to me via Wikileaks” form onto their Web sites”.
“We will take the burden of protecting the source and the legal risks associated with publishing the document,” said Julien Assange, an advisory board member at Wikileaks, in an interview at the Hack In The Box security conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
It’s a first class idea that addresses two major problems with investigative journalism: the risk of legal costs in pursuing investigations; and the need to build relationships between potential whistleblowers and Wikileaks’ technology.
In a nutshell, it’s a networked solution that piggybacks on the trust, relationships and audience built by publishers, NGOs and bloggers, and distributes the technology of Wikileaks so that users aren’t expected to come to them.