The Importance of Leaking Platforms

cowritten with Eric Hartsuyker

On 29 June, Antoine Deltour, one of the two whistleblowers behind LuxLeaks was given a fine of EUR 1500 and a 12 month suspended sentence for blowing the whistle on shady tax avoidance deals between multinational corporations and the state of Luxembourg. Deltour was charged with theft and violating Luxembourg’s strict professional secrecy laws

The LuxLeaks case has triggered widespread debate not only into the issue of tax avoidance, but more importantly the need for greater whistleblower protection laws. Luxembourg, according to Transparency International, has one of the most comprehensive whistleblower protection laws of any European country. In fact, most countries in Europe and around the world have no whistleblower protection laws at all.

This is deeply troubling for the thousands of potential whistleblowers throughout the world. Deltour’s sentencing sends the message that telling the truth and standing up for civil society in the interest of the greater good will have negative consequences. Now more than ever whistleblowers need tools and a system to enable them to safely release information while protecting their identity.

The first and most obvious fix for this is to change the legal system to protect whistleblowers from prosecution. However, it could take years for legislation to give adequate protection. Waiting for this to happen would prevent sources from coming forward and journalists from investigating corruption and other illegal activity.

In the interim, there are many document leaking services and platforms that help provide protection and anonymity for whistleblowers. SecureDrop, maintained by the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and GlobalLeaks are deployed by a number of news and anti-corruption organisations. Bigger names like Wikileaks facilitate large, global scale leaks, and for smaller, more localised issues, many newspapers encourage anonymous source to come forward with GPG over email and HTTP based services like the Briefkasten.

These can be a good place to start, however for certain issues more anonymity and protection is needed. When your adversaries are the state or are state funded institution, blowing the whistle doesn’t just risk your job or your freedom, but also your life. As an example, a whistleblowing engineer was allegedly poisoned as retaliation for coming forward with information about corruption in the construction of the Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Because this alleged attack was carried out in an extrajudicial manner, legal protection would not have protected his life.

A healthy civil society thrives on transparency. As it stands our laws, if existent, do not go far enough to empower and protect potential truth tellers. Even if legislation adequately protected individuals who came forth with leaks, the threat of retaliation would still exist, silencing potential whistleblowers. Whether the threat is ostracisation, job loss, or bodily harm, no one should face these consequences for speaking out.

That is why, for now, hackers, activists, and journalistic organisations are empowering citizens and providing services that give them the protection they need to safely leak information. This is among the reasons we started BerlinLeaks. Information wants to be free — we’re just opening a door.


Originally published at www.berlinleaks.org.