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 →
Looking across the comments in the first discussion of the EJC’s data journalism MOOC it struck me that some pieces of work in the field come up again and again. I thought I’d pull those together quickly here and ask: is this the beginnings of a ‘canon’ in data journalism? And what should such a canon include? Stick with me past the first obvious examples…
Early data vis
These examples of early data visualisation are so well-known now that one book proposal I recently saw specified that it would not talk about them. I’m talking of course about… Continue reading →
This is the second in a series of extracts from a draft book chapter on ethics in data journalism. The first looked at how ethics of accuracy play out in data journalism projects. This is a work in progress, so if you have examples of ethical dilemmas, best practice, or guidance, I’d be happy to include it with an acknowledgement.
Gun permit holders map – image from Sherrie Questioning All
Hacks/Hackers: collaboration and the clash of codes
Journalism’s increasingly collaborative and global nature in a networked environment has raised a number of ethical issues as contributors from different countries and from professions outside of journalism – with different codes of ethics – come together.
This collaborative spirit is most visible in the ‘Hacks/Hackers’ movement, where journalists meet with web developers to exchange tips and ideas, and work on joint projects. Data journalists also often take part in – and organise – ‘hack days’ or ‘hackathons’ aimed at opening up and linking data and creating apps, or work with external agencies to analyse data gathered by either party. Continue reading →
Truth, they say, is the first casualty of war. Or, as an academic might put it:
“Professional journalism takes the nation as its unit of analysis, which [means] journalists employ ‘‘closed’’ language with respect to international issues when the nation is perceived as threatened, encouraging the citizen to read world events and issues from ‘‘our’’ point of view.”
The partnerships that sprung up around Wikileaks‘s warlogs and cables provide an ideal way to explore that.
Europe vs the US
The overriding finding of Handley’s research is a difference in how European and US newspapers handled the Wikileaks material. European papers, he argues, “behaved as loyal to the nation-as-citizen and, more broadly, to citizens-wherever,” but the reporting of US partner The New York Times “demonstrated a loyalty to nation-as-official.”: Continue reading →
Searches made of the Sarah Palin emails - from a presentation by the New York Times's Andy Lehren
One of the highlights of last week’s Global Investigative Journalism Conference was the session on text mining, where the New York Times’s Andy Lehren talked about his experiences of working with data from Wikileaks and elsewhere, and former Washington Post database editor Sarah Cohen gave her insights into various tools and techniques in text mining.
CableSearch is a neat project by the European Centre for Computer Assisted Research and VVOJ (the Dutch-Flemish association for investigative journalists) which aims to make it easier for journalists to interrogate the Wikileaks cables. Although it’s been around for some time, I’ve only just noticed the site’s API, so I thought I’d show how such an API can be useful as a way to draw on such data sources to complement data of your own. Continue reading →
The public sphere used to be our territory, but we are failing to protect it online.
The difficulties experienced by Wikileaks last year were the most visible demonstration yet of just how far the corporatisation of the public sphere has become. Some people described it as the beginning of the first Internet war. They’re just being over-dramatic of course, but it was one fight in a whole series of turf wars over who controls online spaces.
We are thankful that our printing presses are not shut down without due process. But from Mastercard and Visa to Apple, Paypal, Amazon and even data visualisation tool Tableau – company after company pulled out of the production chain without a court order in sight.
In that case national security was given as the reason. In other – less publicised – examples relating to other content producers and distributors it has been copyright, where the mere accusation of infringement can lead to legitimate content being taken down. Continue reading →
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.
Here’s a well-produced (even in rough-cut form) documentary on Wikileaks by Swedish network SVT, published on YouTube in 4 parts. It covers quite a bit of the history of the organisation, the lessons it learned and the partnerships it made along the way – all of which provide valuable insights for any student of journalism as a practice or a cultural form, not to mention a more complex understanding than most coverage of the current situation provides. It really is essential viewing.