Deep Web for Journalists: Comms, Counter-Surveillance, Search
Alan Pearce, in PDF, Kindle and ePub formats only, $9.99
JOURNALISTS HAVE a complicated relationship with secrecy. They’re against it when it hinders their mission, but when it comes to protecting sources, or scooping the competition, they will defend it – sometimes to the point of risking a custodial sentence.
Uncovering the truth itself can be risky, as demonstrated by the cases of WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden. So a book that seeks to shine a light into the darkest and most secret places on the internet must be of interest to hacks – either because it will help them navigate the greatest source of information ever, or because it may even be able to help them preserve their own secrets.
In fact, as Alan Pearce points out in this useful primer, it is often difficult to disengage these two aspects of secrecy. The simple act of researching on the internet may bring you to the attention of our ever hungry security services. You need only share your name with a suspicious person to risk being put on a security watch list.
Deep Web for Journalists draws to our attention the routine practices of security services, and recommends tools and techniques to avoid being snagged. This is where the book really scores. But what exactly is the Deep Web? Alan Pearce explains that it “encompasses everything that the conventional search engines can’t find”. There are vast areas of the internet that are simply ignored by most search engines or unreachable through their algorithms.
According to Alan Pearce, this is where the “arms dealers, drug cartels, spies, pedophiles (sic), kidnappers, slave traders and terrorists” hang out. It has a bad reputation, but it also provides a treasure-trove of resources and, perhaps just as important, a means of avoiding the commonplace surveillance of security services everywhere.
Journalists ought to be aware of the internet’s built-in weaknesses and the threats it poses to the privacy of its users. Sadly, they are often ignorant of the risks they run. A keynote quotation from Edward Snowden suggests that the book may have been produced in something of a hurry from old material. There are sections which could have been more up-to-date. For example, Pearce recommends Intute*, “a searchable database of trusted [Deep Web] sites”, but it actually closed in 2011. Nevertheless many journalists will still find it an invaluable place to start their education.
This digital book is at http://www.deepwebguides.com
*Intute is still available as a research resource.
This review first appeared in the July-August edition of Free Press.