20 Privacy Tips Every Journalist Should Use to Protect Themselves

Justice Ekaeze  - Tech Expert
Last updated: November 13, 2023
Read time: 13 minutes

Learn how to protect your personal data with these recommended privacy tips for journalists. Stay safe while reporting.

Journalism is a crucial profession that always exposes you to various threats – today’s digital advancements have only added to this count. That’s why, aside from ensuring physical security, as a journalist, you must also consider implementing adequate security measures to protect your digital life. This guide lists the most important privacy tips every journalist should remember when carrying out professional activities.

Privacy and confidentiality are essential for journalists to achieve unbiased reporting. Usually, journalists rely on whistleblowers to provide reliable information about their topic of inquiry. However, it is often challenging as they must convince their sources to disclose sensitive information and promise to conceal their identity. Sometimes, journalists are compelled to give up a source, hindering freedom of speech and the free flow of information.

In this era where information flows freely and the truth hangs in the balance, it is paramount to safeguard privacy in journalism. Due to the increased cyber threats, journalists have become hunters of the truth and targets of surveillance, hacking, and the dangers of compromised information.

Thankfully, there are many techniques and tools that you can use to uphold the integrity of your profession. This article gives you the steps to protect yourself and your sources, as the line between revelation and vulnerability blurs with each headline.

Top 10 privacy tips for journalists – Quick list

  1. Exercise practical judgment: Common sense is essential; even minor errors like writing sensitive details on scrap paper or using easily traceable devices can jeopardize security. Employ practical judgment in various scenarios, from meeting precautions to financial transactions, and stay updated on emerging threats and tools.
  2. Educate your sources: Spread awareness about privacy practices, emphasizing secure data storage and communication methods. Impart knowledge about secure guidelines to minimize information breaches, ensuring both parties adhere to stringent security measures.
  3. Exercise caution during meetings: Face-to-face meetings minimize interception risks, but surveillance cameras and ISP signals pose threats. Use caution: consider airplane mode, burner phones, or powering off devices. Verify identities and ensure trusted, direct communication.
  4. Handle phone calls discreetly: Phone conversations are convenient but generate stored data. Use prepaid phones, secure apps like Signal, or encrypted calls for confidentiality. Beware of claims; opt for reliable services like Signal or Silent Circle for enhanced privacy.
  5. Safeguard your messages: Choose messenger systems with end-to-end encryption like Signal, Dust, or Telegram. Prioritize security: messages must remain confidential during fact-checking or meetings.
  6. Explore anonymous communication methods: Traditional methods often reveal identities; SecureDrop and GlobaLeaks enable whistleblowers to upload information anonymously. Prioritize secure, anonymous channels to protect identities and information sources.
  7. Encrypt data and use passwords wisely: Robust encryption deters intruders. Implement full disk encryption using tools like VeraCrypt or Bitlocker. Android users can explore apps like Disk Decipher. Use strong, unique passwords and consider two-factor authentication for added security.
  8. Embrace two-step verification: Use varied verification methods like passwords, key cards, retina scans, or fingerprints. YubiKey provides advanced protection. Be cautious of intercepted verification messages.
  9. Secure your documents: Protect files and folders with additional password layers. Avoid storing highly sensitive information in cloud platforms. Use secure cloud providers like DropBox, OnionShare, or SecureDrop. Review privacy policies if sensitive data must be stored in the cloud.
  10. Encrypt your emails: Encrypting emails protects the content, ensuring confidential communication. You can encrypt email content with PGP encryption. Ensure both parties have access to public keys, and use reliable methods to locate keys, such as public servers.