In a bid to create a safe and secure way for sources and whistle-blowers to communicate with us, The Globe and Mail has become the first Canadian media organization to launch a system known as SecureDrop.
Already used by The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Washington Post and more than a dozen other publications, SecureDrop creates a channel for anonymous and encrypted Internet communications that can link potential sources with investigative journalists.
More information about the SecureDrop system can be found here.
This means that, so long as an individual takes reasonable precautions, he or she can communicate with The Globe and Mail newsroom in a way that prevents outside parties from intercepting the data or reconstructing the chain of communication.
The system was designed to preserve press freedoms in the Internet Age, freedoms that are in danger of being undermined by foreign hackers, organized crime groups and government agents looking to intercept sensitive communications.
"Strong news organizations rely on brave and often confidential contributors to ensure the news gets out," says David Walmsley, The Globe and Mail's editor in chief. "SecureDrop is the 21st-century equivalent of the manila envelope: It provides you with an anonymous venue for relaying material you believe to be in the public interest and you have no other way to get it out publicly."
"By being the first Canadian news organization to introduce this encrypted technology, we are signalling our intent at The Globe and Mail to chase the news aggressively and work with, and protect the identities of, confidential whistle-blowers from all walks of life," Mr. Walmsley said.
SecureDrop, developed in 2013, is distributed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, which sent two instructors to The Globe and Mail's Toronto offices to teach staff how to use the system.
The California-based organization is working to protect whistle-blowers against a backdrop of a growing number of prosecutions for leaks of U.S. government material.
"In the United States, the Obama Administration has prosecuted a record number of sources, actually more sources than all other administrations combined," said Trevor Timm, the executive director of the foundation.
He explained that such prosecutions tend to rely on U.S. government agents forcing telecommunications companies to surrender records of phone or e-mailed communications.
"What SecureDrop tries to do is take the third party completely out of the equation," Mr. Timm says.
SecureDrop routes messages and documents through the TOR network, a tool that obscures the specific pathways used by Internet communications.
Anonymity is built into the system, although people who want to use SecureDrop are cautioned to do so from a computer that is not controlled by an institution.
Messages and files that are uploaded are automatically encrypted. They can be decrypted only by a dedicated machine that is under The Globe and Mail's control. This machine is not connected to any network, including the Internet.
To read the latest reports from The Globe's investigative team, please visit tgam.ca/investigations