Although the mission of WikiLeaks is to “open governments,” it’s done quite a lot to make us think about how to open journalism as well. We’ve seen a number of new whistleblower sites crop up – OpenLeaks and Rospil, for example – as well as major news organizations – Al Jazeera, and perhaps even The New York Times – investigate ways to facilitate more whistle-blowing and leaking.
But why wait for local newspapers to roll out their own anonymous tips pipeline when a project from CUNY Graduate School‘s Entrepreneurial Journalism program has designed just that thing.
Using Localeaks, you can send an anonymous tip, including a file, to over 1400 newspapers in the U.S. through one online form. Choose your state. Choose the newspaper. Enter your information and submit your anonymous tip.
Each drop-box consists of a secure web connection and a form that encrypts both files and the text submitted (then destroys the originals) as well as removes identifying metadata from documents. The system also makes every effort to leave no traceable remnants from the transaction, such as identifiable session cookies on the client side or logging of any IP addresses on the server side.
Once a file is submitted, the newspaper will receive an email, alerting them to the tip. The newspaper then needs to reply that it’s interested. Then a temporary secure file transfer is established. This last step isn’t automated yet, according to Matthew Terenzio, Web Development Director at The Hour Publishing Co and one of the members of this project. The best way to do so, he says, would be to have the encryption software – the open source GnuPG in this case – set up on the newspaper’s end. “It is unlikely that most would have it yet,” says Terenzio, who says he’s working on helping some newspapers set up their own drop-boxes to avoid this step.
But an increasing familiarity with encryption might just be in more newsroom’s future, particularly if the number of “local leaks” continue. After all, as Terenzio notes, “the people formerly called the audience and the sources, are setting the pace of change, not the news organizations.”