Lessons on Surveillance from Journalism

by Angelica Das

Inusnsa0714_reportcover a post-Snowden reality, journalists are paying special attention to security and encryption. Standards are still pretty much across the board from philsophies on security via obscurity, hiding in plain site, mobile encryption apps and secure EVERYTHING.

But journalists have started to organize background info and resources that provide a foundation for much needed conversation on the need for encryption, the extent of that encryption and the available tools.

Resources noted at a convening at the Newseum on “News Organizations and Digital Security: Solutions to Surveillance Post-Snowden” hosted by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Open Technology Institute and Reporters Committe for Freedom of the Press:

With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy

Human Rights Watch and the ACLU conducted interviews with dozens of journalists, lawyers and senior U.S. government officials. The result is a 120-page report documenting the elaborate steps taken on by journalists and lawyers in national secirty. Journalists are modifying their practices in communications and data storage thanks to large scale surveillance by the U.S. government.

Secure Messaing Scoreboard

The Electronic Frontier Foundation answers the question of which messaging apps or tools are actually safe and secure.In the surveillance era (assuming its a new era) are secure messaging products actually secure? A new EFF Campaign for Secure & Usable Crypto created a scorecard as the first phase of a larger campaign. Messaging apps are rated on seven questions of security.


How do you protect yourself as a whistleblower in the age of surveillance? Aaron Swartz had your back. In an open source system developed and maintained with the Freedom of the Press Foundation, news rooms across the country have enabled secure submissions for at-risk sources.

Surveillance Costs: The NSA’s Impact on the Economy, Internet Freedom & Cybersecurity

New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute argues that our conversation on surveillance has been too focused on the debate over national security versus individual privacy. Well over a year since the first reportings on Edward Snowden’s reveleations, what is the real cost of surveillance to the U.S. economy? OTI argues that the NSA has failed to offer real evidence the proves the value of surveillance.

More to Come

The conversation isn’t over. Keep an eye out in 2015 for the Center’s report on “Dangerous Docs” with findings on risk-taking for independent documentary in the face of deep-pocketed interests. Freedom of the Press Foundation also has plans for a program on digital security for filmmakers, we’ll let you know as soon as these go up.


Do Journalists Have Adequate Security Tools?