New Tor Site 'Netpoleaks' Helps Whistleblowers Report on UK Police

'Netpoleaks' aims to make it easier for people to share concerns about police activity securely.

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Jul 13 2016, 10:40am

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Edward Snowden isn't the only one who needs to leak information safely and securely.

UK-based activist group The Network for Police Monitoring, or Netpol, has set up a Tor hidden service so that anyone with potentially helpful information about police practices—perhaps on unlawful or misappropriate monitoring of activists, for example—can get in touch more securely.

"Netpoleaks," as the service is called, is based on Globaleaks, an already well-known piece of open source software maintained by the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights.

Kevin Blowe, a co-ordinator for Netpol, told Motherboard in a phone call that he has been an activist for 25 years. Previously, he said, he used to joke about being under surveillance, but never really believed it. When reporters Rob Evans and Paul Lewis published their book Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, he found out that an organisation he was a part of had been targeted.

"Anybody who has ever tried to set up and use PGP successfully knows it's not easy to do"

Following the Edward Snowden revelations, he said that more people now take their security seriously. "We know that people are becoming much, much more careful," Blowe said.

Typically for Netpol, this isn't going to be national security sources, but people who might be concerned that whistleblowing or leaking information could affect their livelihood. "It's much more people are worried about the impact on their work rather than being dragged off to prison," said Blowe.

However, when some people wanted to share info with Netpol in the past, they didn't always have the technical know-how to do it securely.

"Anybody who has ever tried to set up and use PGP successfully knows it's not easy to do," he explained.

Netpoleaks streamlines the process. It requires a user to route their traffic through the Tor network if they want to visit the site anonymously. Once connected, potential leakers select a different area: police surveillance, fracking protests, undercover policing, police misconduct, or information on Prevent, the UK government's counter-radicalisation program. They then fill in their submission, maybe attach a file, and that's it. The whistleblower will be given a key code so they can access their submission.

Blowe said Netpol may share the information with media organisations, and that it is working with a number of other groups too, particularly one working on the Pitchford Inquiry dealing with undercover policing.