As US President Donald Trump warns of a crackdown on US government leaks to media, interest is growing in technology tools that allow sources to share information anonymously.
One such tool called SecureDrop, being used by at least 30 US and global media organizations, offers a way for sources to anonymously communicate via encrypted servers.
“We’ve seen an explosion of interest in SecureDrop in the past two months,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which created the tool.
Timm said “dozens” of news organizations had expressed interest in using the tool, which enables sharing without leaving digital traces.
“Ever since the election there seems to be an urgency within these organizations to set up a more secure way to get information from whistle-blowers,” he said.
While news leaks have come from a variety of sources, Trump has denounced the release of classified information by officials as “criminal” and vowed to punish leakers.
However, Timm said that the news leaks have been important in holding elected officials accountable and helping the truth emerge.
He said the resignation of former US national security adviser Michael Flynn, caught lying about his contacts with Russia, was an important example.
“Not only are leaks allowing the public to put pressure on the government to pull back awful policies, but it’s even informing other people within the Trump administration,” Timm said in a blog post.
Though the methods for leaks are not always known, some news organizations have acknowledged using SecureDrop, including The Associated Press.
SecureDrop “is the system easiest to use for newsrooms to facilitate communication that allows a back-and-forth exchange while allowing the source to remain completely anonymous,” Intercept editor-in-chief Betsy Reed said. “In the current political environment there can be tremendous risks to cooperating with a journalist and becoming a whistle-blower, and it makes sense to offer this as protection.”
Reed said she expects the media to rely more on these kinds of sources, with the Trump administration seeking to control the flow of information.
“We’re going to have feistier independent journalism that depends on cultivating these kinds of sources,” she said. “Whistle-blower journalism will have its heyday and access journalism is on the decline.”
Meanwhile, some US government officials, fearful of monitoring, have taken to using encrypted mobile applications to share information.
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