The Case for Encryption | CJFE

The Case for Encryption:

Forgive me for sounding a little paranoid, but I’ve had the rainbows ripped from my eyes. Last fall, I signed up to work on a CBC investigation into Canada’s electronic spying programs, relying on the CBC’s exclusive access to the Edward Snowden/NSA leaks. It has been shocking to learn the capabilities of our intelligence agencies. But it has also been a surprising crash course in new technology, privacy and vital questions facing the future of journalism.

But surveillance risks go beyond reporters covering foreign conflicts, terrorism or spies, notes Christopher Parsons of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, who has helped the CBC dissect the Canadian Snowden documents. “Sports reporters might be less interesting to signals intelligence organizations but might still be very interesting to other sporting organizations, criminal betting organizations and so forth.”

“Malware and spyware infect computers across Canada on a regular basis; what do you do when your work computer, holding audio or text files pursuant to a sensitive story, has been compromised?” asks Parsons. “Do you want to notify sources? Do you want to have an ‘air gapped’ computer, which is disconnected from the Internet, where you store source materials, and another computer or device for writing your stories?”

These are awkward questions. No news organization wants to publicly admit its electronic communications are vulnerable. Frankly, I’ve never had a single conversation with the CBC’s IT people about whether we’ve been hacked or compromised, let alone been told what we do specifically to protect sensitive information. And it’s vital, because so much of our email and work these days lives in the cloud.


Nicky Hager’s house raided by police

Nicky Hager’s house raided by police:

While working on the book, Mr Hager said he was prepared for a raid-type situation, but did not believe the police would conduct one on his property.

This is exactly the kind of thing that political reporters shouldn’t have to prepare and defend against is democratic states. But more and more are because of overzealous state secrecy laws combined with bullying policing tactics.


The colossal arrogance of Newsweek’s Bitcoin “scoop”

Ars Technica has written one of the better critiques of the Newsweek story which (likely incorrectly) identified the man believed to have invented Bitcoin. It’s worth the read, if only to have the current state of debate over Newsweek’s story nicely summarized.

Source: The colossal arrogance of Newsweek’s Bitcoin “scoop”


Media sometimes try, fail to keep NSA’s secrets

Source: Media sometimes try, fail to keep NSA’s secrets


How to Publish A  Story That Explains How to Use Social Media to Juice Your Story’s Popularity


I paid to have my latest Wired story promoted on social networks, like Twitter and Facebook, to try to show that a lot of the metrics* we use to measure a story’s success are bullshit. It worked. When the story went live today, the page appeared with more than 15,500 links on Twitter, and 6,500 likes on Facebook. The story is a part of Wired’s Cheats package for the latest issue of the magazine. It needed to go live online at the same time readers encountered it in print, and it needed to have all those social shares set up in advance. 

The entire package was going live at once. I could publish my story a little bit early, but the timing needed to be very close. I wanted all the public-facing stats (like the 15 thousand links and Twitter and 6,000 Facebook shares) to be live by the time the text appeared. Certainly, if someone found it in print or on the tablet, it needed those metrics to already be there. To make that happen, we cheated. 

This morning (or last night) at a little after 1 am, I added the story text, set it to the current time, and hit update. Now it showed up in RSS readers and I could openly tweet it form my main account. (I had originally used a secondary Twitter account I have for testing 3rd party stuff to link to it and score retweets.)

So now, the story goes “live” and as if by magic it has tens of thousands of social shares listed on it the instant real people start to encounter it. It worked. 

*As is site traffic, to a very large extent. My original idea was to use a botnet to throw traffic at it, but Wired’s lawyers said “no, no. Don’t do that.“ 

And, of course, people tend to associate lots of shares with an article’s significance or influence. Consequently, by ‘cheating’ ahead of time a content owner can add a false gravitas to the content in question. I’m curious to know how search companies that, in part, use social signals to surface content deal with this kind of ‘hacking the social.’


Freelancers are second-class journalists—even if there are only freelancers here, in Syria, because this is a dirty war, a war of the last century; it’s trench warfare between rebels and loyalists who are so close that they scream at each other while they shoot each other. The first time on the frontline, you can’t believe it, with these bayonets you have seen only in history books. Today’s wars are drone wars, but here they fight meter by meter, street by street, and it’s fucking scary. Yet the editors back in Italy treat you like a kid; you get a front-page photo, and they say you were just lucky, in the right place at the right time. You get an exclusive story, like the one I wrote last September on Aleppo’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, burning as the rebels and Syrian army battled for control. I was the first foreign reporter to enter, and the editors say: “How can I justify that my staff writer wasn’t able to enter and you were?” I got this email from an editor about that story: “I’ll buy it, but I will publish it under my staff writer’s name.”

FJP: A fast-paced, fiercely heartfelt essay on the downsides to freelance work abroad and the madness of war.

(via futurejournalismproject)

This speaks volumes about contemporary war reporting: not only are ‘dirty wars’ outsourced to freelancers, but the credibility linked to successfully covering them is either denigrated or obviated to the public.