Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Five tools for journalists’ online safety, privacy highlighted during Aaron Swartz Day event

Digital rights advocates often say the best way to fight government or even private surveillance is encryption.

Many news organizations and journalists investigating corruption or human rights abuses look to these encryption tools to overcome security threats, but the digital world is still built to make us rely on third parties to store our information.

“The worst practice that journalists are doing with their security is relying on third parties that they don't control, that they shouldn’t depend on, to protect their privacy,” said Micah Lee, an expert on source protection and cryptography, at a recent privacy conference in San Francisco held to celebrate Aaron Swartz Day.

In memory of Swartz, who developed SecureDrop to let sources anonymously share information with journalists, organizations like the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Internet Archive got together to hack on known or new tools to help journalists keep their data and sources safe.

Lee, who works at The Intercept, teaches people like Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald and other reporters how to use state-of-the-art security measures when dealing with sensitive information.

“If you store your story drafts in Google docs, or your newspaper uses Gmail or Hotmail, not its own email server, I think that’s pretty bad,” he said. “If there is some investigation into your sources, authorities will send a request to those third parties, not to you.”

These are some tools featured over the weekend:

Onion Share

Developed by Lee, Onion Share lets anybody securely share any size file. Instead of carrying sensitive information provided by sources on USBs or portable devices, reporters can share it in this temporary, untraceable website.

"It is like Dropbox, but encrypted and reliable. As soon as the person downloads the file, it can be erased from the server and it’s no longer accessible to anyone,” explained Lee. If a reporter or a source wants to send files, the tool creates a URL and a password that can be shared via encrypted messages. Freelancers can find this tool useful for communicating with whistleblowers.

Tor Messenger

If you are familiar with the TOR Project, currently the best way to navigate online without leaving trace, you will be glad to learn that it recently launched TOR Messenger. The cross-platform tool facilitates encrypted chats on a variety of networks like Facebook and Gchat. Lee recommended to run it with Jabber or Xmpp, which are “decentralized servers owned by privacy nonprofits that are more into keeping your data secure than giant corporations.”


OpenArchive is a mobile application that seeks to preserve audiovisual civic media in a secure way.
“A lot of citizen journalists take photos of human rights abuses or videos of police brutality, and they are hesitant to put it on social media immediately,” explained OpenArchive founder Natalie Cadranel. “They want to give it to someone they trust, so they could upload into the Archive, using a pseudonym if needed, and the app makes it widely available for a long time.”

The app, currently in beta for Android, uses mobile TOR technology to allow people on the ground to send sensitive images without fear of being tracked. All content uploaded to OpenArchive will have a Creative Commons license. In the future, the idea is to make this content searchable.


Keybase is an open directory of public keys that you can verify through social media accounts. A public key combined with a private key can be used to effectively encrypt messages. If a source is sending you an encrypted email and you want to verify that person is reliable, the Keybase directory can tell you who's that key, according to his or her profiles on Twitter, Reddit, Github, Bitcoin and domain names. “The tool is a beta code, so it needs more development to be verified through Facebook or Instagram,” Jeremy Stribling, co-founder of Keybase, said.

Journalists can create a Keybase account and share their public key. That way, sources can verify who they’re sharing information with. It’s a trust model that seeks to avoid impersonation. “If you put a link to your Keybase account in the footer of your articles, anybody can search your profile and verify you through your social media accounts,” added Stribling.


Don’t confuse it with the Facebook or Linkedin Signal apps. This tool, developed by Open Whisper System, allows you to make encrypted voice calls, as well as send encrypted text messages, with your existing number and the contacts that also download the app. The one problem with sources talking to journalists through Signal? If the phone gets seized, authorities would know they have been in touch, although they won’t get access to the content of conversations.

Source: IJNET

Monday, November 23, 2015

GIS Role in National Development to Take Center Stage at Evening Encounter

Penplusbytes’ New Media Hub will on Thursday, November 26th 2015, host it’s 4th in the series of Evening Encounters with Mr. Foster Mensah, the Executive Director of the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) of the University of Ghana, Legon. He will be sharing with participants the Role and Importance of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Mapping in Ghana’s National Development Agenda. RSVP Now to join (http://ow.ly/UQhzI).

In spite of its short history, ample evidence is emerging of Geographic Information System (GIS) contributions to knowledge creation for development planning, management, and policy formulation in Ghana. This assertion about GIS will be further explored and critically assessed by CERSGIS through its Executive Director when he takes his turn to engage stakeholders. The Evening Encounter event will court the participation of technical and development experts across all sectors of Ghana including students and members of Academia.

Kwami Ahiabenu, II, Executive Director of Penplusbytes, contented that the GIS community is playing and will continue to play important role in development planning and resource allocation in Ghana. “However, not much of an information is out there except within a close knit of technologists. This Evening Encounter is an apt opportunity to shed more light on the importance of GIS applications in aiding Ghana’s growth,” he added.

Globally, the enormous potential of GIS applications to circumventing a wide range of multi-sectorial development challenges is just now beginning to be realized. Presently, public and private sector players worldwide are devising innovative ways to harnessing the data integration and spatial visualization power of GIS into their projects with many of these companies and organizations spanning a broad spectrum of national development priority sectors.

As part of his delivery and interactions, Mr. Foster Mensah, a Geodetic Engineer and head of CERSGIS will also take participants through highlights of what the Centre is about, their successes and how these are advancing national development.

RSVP today to join other development oriented individuals, students, technologists, policy makers, organisations and institutions at this information and knowledge sharing session.


Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

CERSGIS is a self-supporting organisation established by the University of Ghana and the Environmental protection Agency (EPA) providing GIS and Remote Sensing services to various government, non-government institutions and the private sectors.