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Category: Crypto

Interview on Monocle’s Globalist Podcast

Henry Rees-Sheridan invited me to speak on Monocle’s Globalist podcast today. They’ve been running a series on press leaks, so Henry and I discussed the new wave of encrypted communication tools and their role in connecting confidential sources to journalists. You can find the full episode here (I come on around 21:30) or listen to an excerpt of my segment below:


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Article on Whistleblowing Tools in CJR

As a break from dissertation writing, I accepted an invitation from the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review to write an article revisiting last year’s Tow Center report on the use of SecureDrop in newsrooms. Here in the early months of the Trump presidency, all indications point to an incredible surge in the use of secure whistleblowing tools among Washington insiders hoping to contact journalists anonymously. A handful of my sources not only confirmed that this is the case, but also offered some sense of how they’ve coordinated this growing stream of information. Find the article here.

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Interview on the “It’s All Journalism” Podcast

Posting this a bit late, but I was invited to speak on the podcast “It’s All Journalism” back in June. They were curious about my research on SecureDrop and I think we covered the subject pretty well in just under thirty minutes.

You can tune in here:

And my report on SecureDrop is available here:

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Mechanical Counterlegibility

Apparently the NSA is in the business of subversive type design — or at least they have someone on staff who dabbles in it. Below is a video about ZXX, a set of letterforms that foil optical character recognition while preserving some level of legibility to human readers.

We’ve come a long way since the first typefaces intended specifically for human-machine inter-intelligibility. Adrian Frutiger undertook the commission for OCR-B with the intention of creating a reliable OCR font that was at least “inoffensive” to human readers.


Another typeface formed barcodes into the shape of letters.


Magnetic-ink faces like E13-B — which were designed to automate banking  in the 1960s — are in fact still used on checks and credit cards.


All of these were pioneering attempts to bridge the gap between human and machine visuality. But the gap is now so narrow, practically overlapping at times, that letterforms must now be designed to deliberately subvert OCR in certain circumstances.

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