In a post-Snowden world where the safety of journalists’ sources is under question, encryption can be a powerful tool for the preservation of the Fourth Estate. As in the days of the McCarthyist blacklist and the phone-tapping of Woodward and Bernstein’s abodes, media practitioners of today should be increasingly aware of the emerging methods of source protection. We spoke to three media professionals to ascertain why encryption is so significant for contemporary journalists.
Journalist and CryptoParty organiser who works with the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJ).
Based in Berlin.
Photo (supplied by subject) by Dennis van Zuijlekom.
Why is encryption important?
MG: Privacy is a basic human right. This right is not being respected by the state and companies, and we must get it back. Strong end-to-end encryption is the only efficient way to protect our privacy on the Internet.
Why is encryption particularly important for journalists?
MG: Obviously for source protection. And to protect your own work from the state, companies, and whoever your work is disturbing.
Can journalists leave all encryption work to IT professionals?
MG: No journalist can have an IT professional in their pocket and take them out whenever they need to encrypt their communications. More seriously, journalists communicate a lot. I cannot call an IT professional every time I need to send an encrypted message.
Also, as a journalist, when I have access to data I need to be careful with, I might not want to outsource the security of this data to an IT professional who would see the data before encrypting it. If a source gives me some data, they expect me to see it before it is ready for release, not other people. As a journalist, my job is to know how to protect my sources.
Do we need to encrypt all messages, even unimportant ones?
MG: Yes. Unimportant private messages should be encrypted because, if only important messages are encrypted, they’ll be detected easily. If I am the only one who encrypts in my country, whoever is watching the network will notice that I am trying to hide something. If my mother, my sister, my friends, colleagues and teachers are using strong end-to-end encryption, whoever is watching the network will just see lots of encrypted data, most of which is totally irrelevant to them. Encrypt to help those who really need encryption!
How are CryptoParties helpful for those who wish to learn encryption?
MG: CryptoParties are helpful if you want to get started with privacy tools. If you are a journalist, an activist or have any other reason to have special needs, you’ll need adapted support – either from CryptoParty people or other trainers, like CIJ or the Tactical Technology Collective.
Postgraduate Teaching Fellow and PHD Candidate working in the Media and Communications Department of Sydney University.
Based in Sydney.
Lecturer in the Media and Communication Department of Sydney University and former journalist for The Australian, Good Weekend and The Straits Times in Singapore.
Based in Sydney.
Thumbnail Photo Source: Flickr/Ophelia Noor