British newspaper launches secure platform for whistleblowers

With heavyweight backing and, no doubt, a lot of goodwill from net activists, the Guardian, a venerable left-leaning British newspaper, has a platform where whistleblowers can securely submit confidential documents to newspaper reporters. It isn’t Wikileaks, which will publish all documents verbatim, but with privacy and personal security on the Internet being the hottest issues of day, this is definitely a positive reinforcement to any potential whistleblower that they are not alone. 

It may also provide a level of support and protection for future Edward Snowdens that has hitherto been unavailable. With heavyweight backers like the Guardian, the New York Times and communities like Reddit, it gives some solace to privacy advocates who are looking to increase awareness and action online.

The launch comes a year to the day since the Guardian posted the first of a series of NSA documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, sparking a worldwide debate on surveillance, privacy, and civil liberties. Free speech and privacy groups alongside popular sites including Reddit, BoingBoing and Imgur, are marking the day with a Reset the Net campaign, encouraging internet users to take direct action to secure their privacy online. Several technology companies are also expected to announce new steps to protect users’ privacy over the course of the day. The SecureDrop open-source whistleblowing platform provides a way for sources, who can choose to remain anonymous, to submit documents and data while avoiding virtually all of the most common forms of online tracking. It makes use of well-known anonymising technology such as the Tor network and the Tails operating system, which was used by journalists working on the Snowden files. The New Yorker, the US not-for-profit investigative newsroom ProPublica, and the Pierre Omidyar-backed startup The Intercept are among the newsrooms already making use of the SecureDrop system. The SecureDrop platform was initially developed by the US developer and activist Aaron Swartz, who killed himself in 2013 when facing charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for the mass downloading of academic articles.