Liberty digital security training: protecting journalists and their sources

The Investigatory Powers Act – or Snoopers’ Charter – poses a direct threat to freedom of the press.

It offers journalists and their sources no protection from the hacking and surveillance powers it legislates for.

So Liberty is offering journalists encryption training to keep themselves and their sources secure.

How the Snoopers’ Charter puts journalists’ communications at risk

The Investigatory Powers Act forces telecoms companies to store everybody’s communications data – records of all calls, texts, location data and web activity – for a year.

This includes records of correspondence between journalists and sources – as well as other privileged communications between lawyers and clients, MPs and constituents and doctors and patients.

The only safeguard the Act provides for the press is that a judge must sign off public bodies’ plans to access their communications data if the stated intention is to identify a source.

If that isn’t the stated aim, police and security services are free to go ahead unchecked.

Worse still, the Act offers journalists no protection at all from interception, hacking, or any of the bulk surveillance powers.

This marks a significant deviation from the well-established judicial process set out in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which, as the NUJ has pointed out, protects the identity of sources and all related journalistic material.

With so little protection, journalists’ communications will be at risk.

No one is exempt from these mass powers – but there is something journalists can do to keep their most sensitive communications private.

Liberty is offering infosec training to help journalists learn practical skills, such as:

·         encrypting their emails to keep correspondences with sources secure

·         using anonymous internet browsers such as Tor to keep their web use private

·         using secure, encrypted operating systems such as Tails

Sessions will be led by Liberty’s in-house surveillance and technology expert, Policy Officer Silkie Carlo – an experienced provider of technical training to journalists and lawyers at risk of surveillance.

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If you are not a journalist please check our What's on page for details of upcoming cryptoparties.