Widely expanding anonymous tipping technology: 9 NGOs, 11 countries and 250 secure anonymous digital dropboxes

General population surveys of public attitudes to whistleblowing have shown strong public support for the view that whistleblowers should be protected not punished. The gold standard survey methods show results indicating this is true across a number of countries, including Australia, Britain and Iceland among others. But in an era of massive metadata collection, how can people be confident that their protection will be assured?

Anonymous digital dropboxes are on the rise largely as a security response to the growth in protected disclosure legislation around the globe. Whistleblowing is topical – and provokes debate. The forward march of new stand-alone, comprehensive whistleblower protection laws over the past 5-7 years has been accelerating. In January, a new protected disclosure law came into effect in Lithuania. In April this year, the European Parliament passed an EU Directive requiring all 28 member states to apply the meta-legislation into their national laws within the next two years. In Australia, new legislation protecting whistleblowers in the private sector came into force in July; this follows on a 2013 law covering Commonwealth government employees. Ukraine is currently considering a draft Bill introduced last month.

This talks outlines important elements of the legislation sweeping the globe and how it is intersecting with security technology adoption. It will examine a European project run by a coalition of not for profit civil society organisations. The project aims to set up some 250 anonymous digital dropboxes across the 11 countries in the EU membership with the highest rate of corruption, as measured by scores on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. The dropboxes are customised to one of ten languages. Other examples of use of anonymous digital dropboxes will also be presented. These range from use by anti-corruption agencies, to not for profit community-based organisations to media outlets. Challenges and responses facing organisations running such boxes in securing and managing information, enabling continuing technology-based conversations with anonymous disclosers, as well as user interfaces, will be explored. Ease of use versus actual anonymity as well as security are examples trade-offs that must be weighed up when an organisation chooses such a system of disclosure. In some cases, organisations may choose to create more than one secure path into the disclosure avenue, to address such trade-offs. Pre-sorting of incoming disclosure data, and time-based distribution of disclosures to different recipients are possible solutions to some of the challenges.