The New Yorker has released a brand-new system for protecting the identity of sources who send it information digitally. Dubbed Strongbox, the anonymous encrypted system was co-built by Internet activist Aaron Swartz–who killed himself under controversial circumstances in January.
In a post explaining Strongbox, The New Yorker states that it’s in one sense a natural progression of a long tradition. The publication had a mailing address printed in the first issue in 1925, added a phone number later, and then an email address in 1998. These points of access were used by readers and sources to share everything from “letters of complaint to classified papers” but over time it became easier for interested parties to find out who these sources are, even if they’d prefer anonymity. That’s what Strongbox is for, and the magazine notes it’s highly protective: “As it’s set up, even we won’t be able to figure out where files sent to us come from. If anyone asks us, we won’t be able to tell them.”
Many publications have public-access inboxes like this of course, for example at Fast Company you can simply email us at email@example.com (though note that this is simply a regular email account!). Andrew Sullivan’s inbox at The Daily Dish, as another example, is famous in its own right for the quality and quantity of positive reader content that gets sent to it. But with controversies over digital communications like the Bloomberg terminal spying matter and the AP phone records seizure, Strongbox seems likely to inspire similar services elsewhere.