Susan E. McGregor

Announcements, announcements-home, Research

Understand Your Internet: The Five W’s of Information Online


The Tow Center is pleased to announce the launch of its latest resource for newsrooms interested in improving their digital security and source protection practices.

“The What, When, Where, Why and How of Who Can See Your Information Online” is an illustrated overview of the mechanics of the Internet, including everything from how your computer connects to a wifi hotspot, to what is (and isn’t) protected by an https connection. The detailed illustration also includes explanations of what “metadata” is typically stored by digital companies and available to (U.S.) authorities, as well as demonstrating the functions of digital security technologies like Tor and encrypted email.

High-quality printed versions of the illustration are available for order (at cost) online. It is available in both a 24″x36″ (61cm x 91cm) wall-sized version, and an individual 12″x18″ (30cm x 45cm) size.

Order the poster online

A high-resolution version of the poster can also be downloaded via the GitBook here.

announcements-home, Events, Past Events, Tips & Tutorials

Source Protection: Resources

We are happy to report that many of the attendees of our October 11 workshop on Source Protection in the Information Age left with a good foundation in digital security, and trainers gained a better understanding of the challenges journalists face in becoming more secure. 
This was a collaboratively organized event that brought together organizations and individuals passionate about the safety and security of journalists. We remain committed to continue supporting this collaboration, and will be planning future workshops. 
If you weren’t able to attend the event, we recommend starting with this brief recap. In addition, we would like to share some resources that you may find useful for continuing to develop your skills and understandings in this area.
The organizers
(Lorenzo, Susan, Sandy & George)

Workshop Panel Videos

Panel 1: How technology and the law put your information at risk

Runa Sandvik, James Vasile, Aaron Williamson | Moderated by Jenn Henrichsen

Panel 2: Source protection in the real world – how journalists make it work

Online Resources

Workshop Resources

Online Library

Tactical Tech Collective

Tactical Tech’s Privacy & Expression program builds digital security awareness and skills of independent journalists, and anyone else who is concerned about the security risks and vulnerabilities of digital tools. On their website you can find manuals, short films, interactive exercises and well designed how-to’s. 

Upcoming Privacy & Security Events

October 20 | 6:30pm | Tracked Online:  How its done and how you can protect yourself
Techno-Activism 3rd Mondays (TA3M) is a community-run monthly meetup that happens in 21 cities throughout the world. It is a good place to meet and learn from individuals that work on anti-surveillance and anti-censorship issues. The October edition of NYC TA3M will feature former product lead of Ghostery who will explain how 3rd parties track you online, what information they collect, and what you can do to protect yourself. If you would like to be alerted of upcoming TA3m events, contact Sandra Ordonez @

Circumvention Tech Festival

The Circumvention Tech Festival will occur on March 1-6 in Valencia, Spain. The festival gathers the community fighting censorship and surveillance for a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons, and social gatherings, featuring many of the Internet Freedom community’s flagship events. This includes a full day of journo security events, which will be conducted both in English and Spanish. This is a great opportunity to meet the digital security pioneers. 


Announcements, Events, Past Events, Research

Digital Security and Source Protection For Journalists: Research by Susan McGregor



The law and technologies that govern the functioning of today’s digital communication systems have dramatically affected journalists’ ability to protect their sources.  This paper offers an overview of how these legal and technical systems developed, and how their intersection exposes all digital communications – not just those of journalists and their sources – to scrutiny. Strategies for reducing this exposure are explored, along with recommendations for individuals and organizations about how to address this pervasive issue.







Order a (bound) printed copy.




Digital Security for Journalists A 21st Century Imperative

The Law: Security and Privacy in Context

The Technology: Understanding the Infrastructure of Digital Communications

The Strategies: Understanding the Infrastructure of Digital Communications

Looking Ahead



Innovation Showcase

Innovation Showcase 2014 / Browser Topic Reader


Browser Topic Reader

Noura Farra, Philip Liou, Joseph Taiwo Orilogbon


One way to increase engagement with news articles is to provide users with visual feedback about their favourite news topics and reading habits.  Currently, users spend a lot of time online reading news articles about various topics which can change from week to week. However, they rarely have a convenient and accurate means of aggregating statistics which can enable them to understand their own reading tastes and trends.

By providing analytics to users about their news consumption trends, our tool provides feedback that can alter news consumption positively. For example, a user might realize she is spending too much time reading about “Lindsay Lohan drug addiction” and that she should spend more time reading about other “worldly” events, such as “presidential election 2016”. By providing feedback on reading habits, the proposed tool would increase user engagement with news articles.

The proposed tool we developed is a Chrome browser extension which visualizes a user’s top consumed news topics based on her browsing history. It shows users the breakdown of types of news stories on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and allow them to keep track of their news interests, as well as how they change over time. The extension analyzes news articles based on URL history from the browser and presents a summary of the most popular topics for the selected period, in the form of two types of visualizations: a stacked area chart showing evolution of trends over time, and a Treemap which shows the importance of different news topics to users, based on distribution of keywords. The user has the ability to show and hide topics, as well as zoom in on different topics in the Treemap. Finally, we also show the user links to example articles from each topic.



Innovation Showcase

Innovation Showcase 2014 / IRIS


Iris: Visualizing Geopolitical Sentiment 

Sahil Ansari, Shensi Ding, Robert KuykendallBo Xu

IRISPromoIRIS is a web application that provides a map of global news of positive or negative sentiment. Users can search for top recent news by country or word phrases and visualize its sentimental impact on foreign relations. IRIS was inspired by NewsStand, a research application which extracts location information from news stories and orients them on a zoomable map.
We envision IRIS being used for education and exploration of current events. News readers would be able to broaden their understanding of issues by looking into specific countries as well as countries connected by sentiment. Ideally, users exploring the map would feel a sense of serendipity as visually relationships pop leading to further exploration.



Innovation Showcase

Innovation Showcase 2014 / InfoScribe


InfoScribe: Unlock the Stories Trapped in PDFs

Aram Chung, Madeline Ross

InfoScribePromoInfoScribe helps investigative journalists unlock the stories trapped in PDF’s. Specifically, InfoScribe is a generalized, web-based crowd-sourcing document transcription platform that invites the public to participate in the journalistic process by transcribing specified data fields from documents. What does that mean in plain English? We are building a platform where journalists can upload image-based documents (such as PDFs) and a community transcribes those documents.

Despite the exponential increase of digital data today, newsrooms aren’t getting any larger and OCR technology isn’t advancing fast enough. Though on its surface greater availability of digital public records should be a boon to investigative journalism, the reality is that these records are often published as unstructured, image-based documents, or without essential metadata.

While providing journalists with access to data sources that would otherwise be beyond their reach, InfoScribe seeks to cultivate meaningful, long-term personal investment in the journalistic process by giving transcribers access to the journalists who are doing work they care about, as well as publication credit for their contribution. We want to invite community participation to increase the transparency of, and the public’s confidence in, the journalistic process.



Innovation Showcase

Innovation Showcase 2014 / The Land


The Land: Covering Religion in Israel and Palestine

Indrani BasuJihii JollyKali KotoskiSaman MalikLisa MalykhinaTeboho (Poppie) MphuthingEvan Simko-BednarskiHarry Stevens

TheLandPromo“The Land” is an online platform showcasing the print and multimedia works of the Covering Religion class of 2014. As part of the seminar, the class covered a variety of religious communities in New York, and then traveled to Israel and Palestine for an 8-day reporting trip. Our deadline stories and features (yet to be published) integrate print with multimedia elements, including photographs, audio and video stories.


In line with current media trends, we chose an image driven design for our main online platform, supplemented by a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (embedded on our website). In addition to driving traffic to our site, our concentrated social media effort attracted the attention of local journalists and contacts, bolstering our reporting efforts in the Holy land. An Al-Jazeera reporter based in Palestine reached out to us over Twitter, and several students were able to coordinate a meeting and tour Ramallah, an outing not originally on the itinerary.


While traveling abroad, the editorial and web teams had nightly deadlines to publish Daily Dispatches and Photos of the Day. We operated on a tight schedule with a collaborative editorial vibe you’d see in any newsroom. But instead of meeting in a conference room, our discussions took place in the back of the tour bus, in cafes in Nazareth and in the old city courtyard in Jerusalem.


We believe our approach to building the site was especially innovative because we designed it to be a real-time portfolio of sorts, to ensure that despite the time restraints we we reporting under, our viewers could enjoy the content (which dealt with dense, historically significant contexts) at an appropriate and enjoyable pace. Thus, we aimed to combine on-the-ground reporting and time-sensitive journalism with the slow, visually immersive design of a photographer’s portfolio.