WSJ and Al-Jazeera whistleblowing sites can grass you up

When Wikileaks broke some great stories thanks to whistleblowers giving it information, news outfits Al-Jazeera and the Wall Street Journal set up copycat sites which they claimed would do the same thing.

However human rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation has ripped into the pair of them for giving hollow promisies.

The EFF said that the Al-Jazeera Transparency Unit (AJTU) was supposed to “allow Al-Jazeera’s supporters to shine light on notable and noteworthy government and corporate activities which might otherwise go unreported.” It promised that “files will be uploaded and stored on our secure servers” and that materials “are encrypted while they are transmitted to us, and they remain encrypted on our servers.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) set up SafeHouse which was touted as a “secure uploading system” with “separate servers,” two layers of encryption, and a policy of discarding information about uploaders “as quickly as possible.”

But EFF said that legally both sites were on shaky ground and their Terms of Service indicate that whistleblowers are hardly going to be protected.

The AJTU said it will be allowed to “share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency’s request, or where we believe it is necessary.” SafeHouse has the right “to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities” without notice.

In the case of the WSJ, it reserves the right to disclose information to any “requesting third party,” not only to comply with the law but also to “protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies” or to “safeguard the interests of others.”

Basically both outfits are saying that they can grass you up. You might has well have sent all your whistleblowing in an anonymous email.

As the EFF points out, whistleblowing threatens “the interests of others” so therefore refusing to defend the whistleblowers against types makes your whistleblowing site pretty pointless.

SafeHouse tells whistleblowers that they have have to give them ownership of the material and promise that it doesn’t “infringe upon or violate the right of privacy or right of publicity of, or constitute a libel or slander against, or violate any common law or any other right of, any person or entity.”

Clearly they have not really thought what whistleblowing is. Even if material is not nicked, most of the time a whistleblower is violating someone’s rights.

SafeHouse tells the whistleblowers that they have to agree that the WSJ can transfer the material to any country where Dow Jones does business. So if the material is stored in a country with more intense internet monitoring it could be forced to give the government the name and the address of the whistleblower, the EFF said.

The security of SafeHouse is dubious anyway. Before you send your files you have to ask permission to use it. The WSJ knows exactly who you are and what you are submitting.

AJTU said it had no obligation to maintain the confidentiality of any information, in whatever form, contained in any submission. The AJTU’s website by default plants a trackable cookie on your web browser which allows them “to provide restricted information to third parties.”

The EFF added that the websites are misleading and are dangerous for whistle blowers to use.