Typically within existing academic debates, forensic databases are seen as tools of state surveillance and are deeply connected to issues of privacy. This project moves the debate beyond these themes to explore how citizen-led forensic databases can be used as a tool for reparation and truth finding. The project breaks with traditional (state-centric) ways of researching violence and disappearance, since it challenges the persistent boundary between victims and experts: between claims for justice by victims, and official practices of constructing ‘truth’ about the dead and disappeared. It is also fuses biogenetic and social research thus providing a tool to open novel avenues of academic inquiry, as well as grounded insights for humanitarian and political intervention.
Detekt is a free tool that scans your Windows computer for traces of FinFisher and Hacking Team RCS, commercial surveillance spyware that has been identified to be also used to target and monitor human rights defenders and journalists around the world.
It had been evident for some time before Snowden surfaced that best practices in investigative reporting and source protection needed to change—in large part, because of the migration of journalism (and so many other aspects of life) into digital channels. The third reporter Snowden supplied with National Security Agency files, Barton Gellman, of the Washington Post, was well known in his newsroom as an early adopter of encryption. But it has been a difficult evolution, for a number of reasons. Reporters communicate copiously; encryption makes that habit more cumbersome. Most reporters don’t have the technical skills to make decisions on their own about what practices are effective and efficient. Training is improving (the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, at Columbia Journalism School, where I serve as dean, offers a useful place to start), but the same digital revolution that gave rise to surveillance and sources like Snowden also disrupted incumbent newspapers and undermined their business models. Training budgets shrank. In such an unstable economic and audience environment, source protection and the integrity of independent reporting fell on some newsrooms’ priority lists.
Good piece by Steve Coll on how CITIZENFOUR is as much about journalism as it is about surveillance.
Whisper has developed an in-house mapping tool that allows its staff to filter and search GPS data, pinpointing messages to within 500 meters of where they were sent.
The technology, for example, enables the company to monitor all the geolocated messages sent from the Pentagon and National Security Agency. It also allows Whisper to track an individual user’s movements over time.
When users have turned off their geolocation services, the company also, on a targeted, case-by-case basis, extracts their rough location from IP data emitted by their smartphone.
The Guardian witnessed this practice on a three-day visit to the company’s Los Angeles headquarters last month, as part of a trip to explore the possibility of an expanded journalistic relationship with Whisper.
The Guardian had previously worked with Whisper to find Iraq war veterans who wanted to share their opinions of Isis, find an undocumented immigrant to write an opinion article and post people’s confessions about Valentine’s Day. At no point during those collaborations did Whisper indicate it was ascertaining the location of individual users who had disabled their geolocation feature.
The Guardian visited the Whisper offices to consider the possibility of undertaking other journalistic projects with the company and sent two reporters last month to look in detail at how the app operates. At no stage during the visit were the journalists told they could not report on the information shared with them.
The Guardian is no longer pursuing a relationship with Whisper.
The world is constantly changing and I feel like my job is to try to see how it is changing,” he says. “Traditionally images have functioned as representations of something in the world, but we are quickly approaching the point where vast majority of images are produced for other machines and no human being will ever see them. It’s an operational regime of images.