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 agreement? 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.

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Comments on “WSJ Launches Wikileaks Competitor… But Says It Can Reveal Your Info To Law Enforcement”

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

trying to be optimistic says:


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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