Snowden revelations: a moral responsibility of the informal media?

In each comment piece I have written recently I found myself mentioning Edward Snowden’s revelations one way or another. In one sense it’s no surprise whatsoever: it’s just a big thing for the security world. Ross Anderson talked about the revelations about backdoors being a “9/11 moment for the [crypto] community“. No wonder we talk about it if it’s on all our minds a lot of the time.

There is another aspect to this, though. As I said in a post to our local cyber security enthusiasts’ facebook group: “I feel we need to make sure these stories keep getting shared online – as beyond the Guardian, UK media have been successfully intimidated into keeping quiet through a DA-notice.” A useful description of the story around that is here. As such notices are voluntary to start with, and they didn’t send the University of Kent one as far as I know, I don’t feel in the least bit naughty for mentioning that DA-notice when it’s usually kept quiet about.

I think to show our appreciation of the way in which Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and friends have opened our eyes – to (respectively) huge and significant detriment in their personal lives (David Miranda!) – we have to keep hammering on about this. Of the “formal” media, The Guardian have been standing mostly alone in this in the UK, not even getting much defence from others when their press freedom is under attack from Cameron and his cronies. When our network of UK cryptographers made a fuss about NSA backdoors, the Times declined our letter, only the Guardian reported on it. Least I can do is return the favour.

Another reason to keep at it in the informal media is that some stories do not even make it into the UK press. I don’t think the Belgacom revelations (GCHQ/NSA snooping on the EU’s ISP) have made it fully into the UK press yet. I’ve refered to a Spiegel piece on NSA smartphone attacks that I haven’t seen elsewhere. It was a pleasure to see the Dutch newspaper NRC join in with Snowden stories last weekend, with their recent story about 50,000 dormant NSA-infected networks also a novelty. (And, like with the Spiegel story, conveniently published in English.) Funny they were being apologetic on Twitter already today for not coming out faster with more stories.

There has been a welcome change in the UK in the last week or so though. The BBC, usually appearing painstakingly conformant, appear to have changed policy. They covered the NRC story, and now also report a story from Huffington Post on the NSA using porn internet histories for blackmail. Who knows the Daily Mail may eventually end up standing alone defending Cameron’s attack on Snowden and the Guardian.