Journalists often rely on anonymous tips to fuel their investigations, but it can be hard to find willing sources, either in person or online. As our digital footprints grow larger and become easier to trace, a new platform is trying to help to keep anonymous sources safe.
SecureDrop is a submission system where whistleblowers can submit documents and tips securely.
Programmer and transparency advocate Aaron Swartz coded the system, with help from Wired editor Kevin Poulsen and security expert James Dolan. Since SecureDrop was one the last projects Swartz worked on before his death in January 2013, some are describing it as his “last gift to journalism.”
News organizations can install the system on their websites and tweak the open source software as needed. The Freedom of the Press Foundation, which now manages the project, will also offer cybersecurity training to journalists before they start using the system.
The system lets reporters establish close relationships with their sources, usually an advantageous move when working on high-profile investigations that can take months or years. All sources receive a code name when they submit information, and journalists can converse with their sources on the system without resorting to email, which is less secure. When sources return to the site, they just enter the code to see any clarifying questions from the journalist, and continue correspondence or submit more documents if they wish.
In May, the New Yorker was the first organization to use a version of the system (then called DeadDrop at the time), to launch its StrongBox project.
Read more about how to use system here.
IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.
Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Rohit Rath.