There was a time when it wasn’t so hard to be an anonymous whistleblower, though it’s always taken guts. You could make a call from a random payphone (to drop a dime on some evil-doer), mail a package of sensitive documents or photographic negatives in a plain brown wrapper, or arrange a face-to-face meeting with a couple of courageous, principled reporters in a parking garage.
Nowadays just about everything you do leaves a trail — you’re leaving one right now. That bread-crumbing is by design, of course. And while each of the scores of entities who track you for marketing (and other supposedly benign) purposes may not yet be cc:-ing your casual interests to Homeland Security, those terms-of-service you agreed to might not rule it out in the future.
If you ever do decide to report on the crimes of some powerful entity, we’ve all been assured by current events that (unless you’re very careful) it probably won’t be long before you’re identified and possibly charged for your trouble. It’s not getting better; our current administration (the most transparent in history, according to the brochure) has already prosecuted far more whistle-blowers than all previous administrations combined.
DeadDrop is an open-source software system conceived by the late Aaron Swartz to provide a very secure, anonymous digital drop-box for anyone who might need one. The New Yorker has now launched their own implementation and others will certainly follow.
It’s a start; secure protocols are made to be broken, and you can bet the back-rooms are buzzing with well-funded initiatives to break this one. Nevertheless, I’m hoping for the best. As a general rule, and within the bounds of true national security, of course, I think more truth in our lives is far better than less.