This past spring, Wired’s investigations editor Kevin Poulsen announced that before Aaron Swartz’s death, he had been working with the brilliant young programmer and activist to develop a secure-submission tool between whistleblowers and journalists, so that whistleblowers could easily get their documents and evidence to journalists without revealing their identities. As of today, that service is now available for all journalists to use.
Swartz, who helped create a number of crucial online tools (see Reddit and court document database PACER, among many others) and rallied critically against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), took his life in January of this year after federal prosecutors slammed him with 13 felony charges over downloading upwards of 4 million academic articles through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s JSTOR database. But despite Swartz’s tragically short life, his contributions to society and Internet freedom live on: In May, the New Yorker launched Strongbox, a secure whistleblowing tool that came out of Poulsen’s direction and Swartz’s code.
Today, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, in collaboration with Poulsen, released SecureDrop, an open-source private messaging tool based on that same code, but made available to all news organizations that wish to install it. “Several major news agencies have already signed up for installations, and they will be announced in the coming weeks,” Freedom of the Press announced in a press release.
Freedom of the Press has thrown its full weight behind SecureDrop, and has pledged to help media outlets install and learn the software in the coming months, with the aid of computer security specialist James Dolan. The code appears to have gone through a pretty rigorous auditing process, too: Before gifting SecureDrop to media organizations, Freedom of the Press put the tool through a test led by University of Washington researchers, security expert Bruce Schneier, and famed hacktivist Jacob Appelbaum. If SecureDrop is as strong as Freedom of the Press says it is, it’s one more way to keep the Fourth Estate functional in an era of surveillance and whistleblower crackdowns.