WSJ and Al-Jazeera whistleblower sites offer terrible, dangerous terms-of-service

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Hanni Fakhoury has analysis of the legal language in the Wikileaks-like services for whistleblowers launched by The Wall Street Journal and Al-Jazeera. The technical demerits of the WSJ's offer have been well documented, but EFF's analysis of the legal jeopardy that both publishers represent to whistleblowers is sobering too:

Despite promising anonymity, security and confidentiality, AJTU can "share personally identifiable information in response to a law enforcement agency's request, or where we believe it is necessary." SafeHouse's terms of service reserve the right "to disclose any information about you to law enforcement authorities" without notice, then goes even further, reserving the right to disclose information to any "requesting third party," not only to comply with the law but also to "protect the property or rights of Dow Jones or any affiliated companies" or to "safeguard the interests of others." As one commentator put it bluntly, this is "insanely broad." Neither SafeHouse or AJTU bother telling users how they determine when they'll disclose information, or who's in charge of the decision.

Whistleblowing by definition threatens "the interests of others." Every time someone uploads a scoop to SafeHouse, they jeopardize someone's interest in order to inform the public of what's actually going on. That's the whole point. In the United States, submitting documents to journalists is protected speech under the First Amendment. But people in totalitarian countries cannot expose the secrets of their governments without breaking those governments' laws. And neither news outlet acknowledges that governments might abuse their police power to find out who leaked damaging information -- even here in the good old U.S. of A.

WSJ and Al-Jazeera Lure Whistleblowers With False Promises of Anonymity


  1. Al-Jazeera is a great source for anything that is not happening in Qatar, which owns them.

    Wall Street Journal is a great source for leaks that might have an impact on your stock investments.

    1. Al-Jazeera is a great source for anything that is not happening in Qatar, which owns them.


  2. Wow. If they’re going to set up a honeypot for whistleblowers, they’re going to have to do better than that.

    If I had something juicy on ANYBODY with more power than me, you can bet any publicly owned corporation whose ultimate concern is always limiting their liabilities would be my LAST consideration for handing it off. And that includes corporations that claim to be involved in journalism.

  3. Seems like pretty good terms of service , basically it can be summarized as
    “don’t trust us, we don’t know if our security works, we don’t trust each other, and don’t count on our boss going to jail to protect you”

  4. I went to a Wikileaks like site once, it focused primarily on business as I recall. When I looked up businesses in the community where I was living, I found more astroturf than I have ever seen in my life. There was absolutely NO way I could have posted a leak as the deck was so obviously stacked against me.
    I can’t remember the name of the site . . . I wonder if they are still around? (duh)

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