Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about information security and government surveillance. I stumbled upon a New York Times article that connected these topics with journalism. This article explains that many whistle-blowers and sources that wish to remain anonymous do not always like providing journalists with their secret information for fear of insecure communication that could lead to government tracking.
As journalists, we learn about the ethics behind protecting our sources, but what about the technology behind this? Journalists may not have the technical skills to understand the secure-communication tools that keep anonymous sources truly anonymous. WikiLeaks has tons of security in place to allow for anonymous communication, but the same is not true for a lot of publications. This means that whistle-blowers with important information to share about the government may turn to an organization like WikiLeaks before a media organization to share their secrets.
Major media publications whose purpose is to keep citizens informed may be losing access to important information because they lack secure communication systems that allow for anonymous communication. Subsequently, citizens who turn to these publications for information are also losing access. Its up to these publications, and arguably journalism schools, to inform journalists about the importance of the technology behind protecting sources.
On a positive note, several publications like The New Yorker, have recently begun using secure systems that allow anonymous communication between journalists and the information providers. This is a crucial step in allowing media organizations to better protect their sources and giving these anonymous sources more faith in the organizations to keep them secure.