Early in Alan Pearce‘s book on web security, Deep Web for Journalists, a series of statistics appears that tell a striking story about the spread of surveillance in just one country.
199 is the first: the number of data mining programs in the US in 2004 when 16 Federal agencies were “on the look-out for suspicious activity”.
Just six years later there were 1,200 government agencies working on domestic intelligence programs, and 1,900 private companies working on domestic intelligence programs in the same year.
As a result of this spread there are, notes Pearce, 4.8m people with security clearance “that allows them to access all kinds of personal information”. 1.4m have Top Secret clearance.
But the most sobering figure comes at the end: 1,600 – the number of names added to the FBI’s terrorism watchlist each day.
This is the world of predictive policing that a modern journalist must operate in: where browsing protesters’ websites, making particular searches, or mentioning certain keywords in your emails or tweets can put you on a watchlist, or even a no-fly list. An environment where it is increasingly difficult to protect your sources – or indeed for sources to trust you.
Alan Pearce’s book attempts to map this world – and outline the myriad techniques to avoid compromising your sources. Continue reading →