Arriving at the End of November, afriLeaks – Its Effectiveness Remains to Be Seen
afriLeaks is preparing to open for business at the end of November. It’s a whistleblowing organization with a focus on Africa, but claims that it’s different from WikiLeaks. Its aim is to only connect whistleblowers to investigative media partners through secure technology, rather than to the public.
So what is afriLeaks and why is it different from WikiLeaks? Well first what is WikiLeaks? “WikiLeaks is an international, online, non-profit, journalistic organisation which publishes secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources”. (source right from Google)
Whereas WikiLeaks role is to disclose data right to the public and media, afriLeaks claim is to provide a highly secure vehicle for whistleblowers to directly connect with the media or research organizations (anonymously if they so choose). It’s a place for “media and whistleblowers to trigger investigations.”
Where WikiLeaks is “fearless in their efforts to get the unvarnished truth out to the public”, afriLeaks connects those whistleblowers to investigative media, using technology as a tool for the public good through the media. afriLeaks media houses are (a dozen or so) are receiving technological training and basic investigative training – basically how to verify documents and sources and conduct cross-examination on a story.
Is the technology secure? Well according to afriLeaks, they use GlobalLeaks open source software developed by Hermes Center (not the designer – I actually checked) so it’s as close to secure as you can get. The platform is based on a strong understanding of cryptography with skookum security mechanisms. Digital security training is provided to journalists who will be able to think through possible gaps in handling submitted documents and learn about tools and practices that can help plug them… anyone else foresee a highly sensitive document going public by mistake? Because humans do make mistakes.
With a platform like afriLeaks, there’s always that chance that there could be danger for both the whistleblower, and the receiving journalists. afriLeaks does not want to be that platform providing a steady drip feed of secret documents. afriLeaks is well aware that information can be used as a secret weapon – setting people/governments/politicians up, only to go down. Organizations and governments know that there are risks of secrets being exposed intentionally. And as much as afriLeaks attempts to claim that they don’t wish this to happen and are working towards preventing this, my bet is on another ‘WikiLeaks’ scandal.
I foresee employees using this tool as a platform for blowing the whistle on their organizations, strictly because they have no other vehicle to voice their concerns. And this in turn can immediately turn into a “he said, she said” scenario, with fingers pointing blame every which way. In turn, this would not help resolve organizational issues between employees and employers, which of course can blow up into retaliation etc. I’m thinking now would be a good time for organizations to invest in a third-party ethics reporting system. Getting that system in place, along with a Code of Conduct and Whistleblower Policy, ahead of afriLeaks scheduled release, might just be a good business plan. Otherwise your organization secrets are as good as front page news.