When pursuing broad or complex investigations, a standard technique in the journalist’s toolbox is to speak to interviewees ‘off-the-record’ to gain insight to sensitive information.
If the journalist has recorded or made note of that conversation, they are presented with three big questions moving forward, writes freelance journalist Cristiana Bedei on IJNet: negotiate what can be used and attributed, how to safely store the data, and improve your cybersecurity measures if the source is at risk.
One of Bedei’s three steps to protecting off-the-record information is to handle data safely. Speaking with Suelette Dreyfus, journalist and a researcher in cybersecurity and privacy at the University of Melbourne, Dreyfus said that this means disposing of sensitive information correctly.
"That isn’t just dropping a file in a desktop bin and clicking ‘empty trash.’ It takes some research to do it correctly, and it may require physically destroying a hard drive for sensitive info," notes Dreyfus.