WSJ Launches Wikileaks Competitor... But Says It Can Reveal Your Info To Law Enforcement

from the that's-not-good dept

With all the focus on Wikileaks recently, and the question of whether it is or is not "press" (not that it actually matters), one point that I've heard more than a few people raise is: why didn't any of the big news organizations create Wikileaks? It seems like a no-brainer, but they didn't. Of course, with the attacks on Wikileaks itself (and it is an organization with flaws, clearly), we've seen a number of alternative platforms for leaking information spring up, and now The Wall Street Journal has entered the game with a platform it's calling SafeHouse.

Now, it's great that the Wall Street Journal has decided to get into the game, and one would hope that other newspapers will set up similar secure and protected dropboxes for information. But... there are some serious problems with the WSJ's implementation. First of all, the terms of service basically say that you shouldn't expect them to protect your anonymity at all:
"Except when we have a separately negotiated confidentiality agreementů we reserve the right to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities or to a requesting third party, without notice, in order to comply with any applicable laws and/or requests under legal process, to operate our systems properly, to protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies, and to safeguard the interests of others."
In other words, if you leak to the WSJ and the government wants to know who you are, the WSJ is going to tell the government. Apparently, the WSJ doesn't think too highly of the concept of journalistic shields for sources.

Separately, researchers, including Jacob Appelbaum are pointing to numerous security flaws in Safehouse's implementation that could also reveal someone's identity, despite promises of anonymity.

Hopefully, the WSJ is willing to admit that it hadn't necessarily thought through all the implications, and will fix these problems quickly.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 5:30am

    Now that is irony

    It's called SafeHouse yet it's perfectly willing and seemingly able to spontaneously leak your info to the feds or anyone that pays them.

    Irony: /ˈīrənē/ N - The expression of one's meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite

     

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      The eejit (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 5:41am

      Re: Now that is irony

      I wonder if this is even legal - deliberately leaking your personal data to a non-interested entity.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 7:38am

      Re: Now that is irony

      The use of words expressing something other than their literal intention. Now that is irony.

       

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      Joe Publius (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 7:39am

      Re: Now that is irony

      I guess using Safe House would make it a good time for someone to use all of that tradecraft they learned from working for these organizations.

      Tapping a honeypot through a false flag operation? Someone should should hold a seance and see if Robert Ludlum could write a story about it.

       

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    Saurabh, May 6th, 2011 @ 6:25am

    sources?

    I don't get it. Journalists, typically, go to great lengths to hide their sources but here WSJ is basically saying "no protection" for you?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 6:31am

    So...this is just a way for the WSJ NOT to give credit for people who contribute with stories?

    I mean, if the story doesn't attract the government's attention, the WSJ doesn't need to credit the original author and the author shuts up (because that's what he intended to do in the first place). If it does attract attention, the author will have more to worry about than suing the WSJ for plagiarism (+ the WSJ will pin the liability to it's source).

    It's a win-win for the WSJ.

     

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    EE, May 6th, 2011 @ 6:34am

    ... and yet another social media misstep by Rupert Murdoch. He really needs to understand what his competition offers, and what he can do better, before launching these services. Maybe in his opinion lack of anonymity is a service. LOL

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 6:52am

    SafeHouse should have a paywall!

     

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    Jay (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 7:02am

    I had a really funny quote but then I just thought up two words:

    Rupert Murdoch

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      Just looked that up yesterday after reading about the daily losing another $10 mil. Sadly, the PDF linked there appears to be gone now :(

       

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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 7:28am

    So News Corp sets up a honey pot that definitely will not work. What ever Rupert Murdock is thinking must be due to his advancing stupidity disease.

     

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    Overcast (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    So in otherwords - they can rat out the whistleblower.

    Don't expect the line to be very long WSJ.

     

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    In related news...

    The FBI has told members of the Witness Protection Program that they have to give out their personal information, including their original names, if anybody asks.

     

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    Josef Anvil (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 8:15am

    smh

    EPIC fail

     

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    zaven (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 8:45am

    The Magic Word

    So essentially, The Wall Street Journal releases a tip box for anonymous leaks but reserves the right to tell on you if law enforcement says please.

     

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    Nathan F (profile), May 6th, 2011 @ 9:26am

    Didn't the newspapers fight tooth and nail to get Anon source shield laws for their journalists? So that when they break these big huge scandal stories and congress and the courts drag them up they don't have to reveal their sources?

     

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    KB, May 6th, 2011 @ 9:56am

    Clearing confusion

    So..Wall Street pretty much owns capitol hill these days, and Dow Jones owns WSJ. Is there any reason why we should believe that the two are separable in any regard?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, May 6th, 2011 @ 10:01am

    Not that it's the same (comments vs. leaking) but the LA Times now (as of Yesterday) requires people to leave comments via Facebook. This eliminates anyone without a FB account and removes anonymity from commenting.

    This is the most related article I came across so far and wanted people here to be aware of the BS, so I apologize for being slightly OT.

     

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    trying to be optimistic, May 10th, 2011 @ 8:35pm

    overreacting?

    not sure why "reserving a right" is so bad - doesn't mean they're gonna use it just for the hell of it. read any other online ToS and you'll find the same or worse re: govt. disclosure. and under ecpa, I'm pretty sure they could disclose info to a third party regardless of whether they tell you in the ToS. plus a separate confidentiality agreement could be as simple as "I have info about X, but need WSJ to guarantee anonymity first." whether it's effective..

    pretty balanced reporting by techdirt as usual, and I tend to agree with the commenters, but not as much here - why not be glad the news org's are at least starting to show some signs of life? what'd you expect, a promise to risk the farm over a leaked cable? i'd love to see it too... also didn't see anything requiring you to give your real name, SSN, first born's soul, etc. when submitting to Safehouse - not that hard to obscure any of those or your IP either if you absolutely want/need (unless it's a birth certificate.. kidding kidding). maybe a third party submission app could do the trick (Whistleblower API probably not gonna happen). also can't find any wikileaks submission ToS after browsing a few min, but definitely could be wrong on that. #18 and 19 make pretty good points too...

     

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