Over the last several years, numerous journalists and news organizations have reported incidents in which their communications have been hacked, intercepted, or retrieved. In 2014, Google security experts found that 21 of the world’s 25 most popular media outlets were targets of state-sponsored hacking attempts, and many journalists have watched helplessly as hackers took control of their social media accounts, targeting confidential information in their internal servers. When journalists’ digital accounts are vulnerable to hacks or surveillance, news organizations, journalists, and their sources are at risk, and journalists’ ability to carry out their newsmaking function is reduced. Yet, some journalists do not believe that hacking and surveillance are significant threats, and they are not adopting information security measures to protect their data, themselves, or their sources. This research study includes 19 interviews with journalists, developers, and digital security trainers to shed light on journalists’ perceptions of information security technologies, including motivations to adopt and barriers to adoption. The findings show that motivations to adopt information security technologies hinge on the idea of protection: protection of self, story, and the journalist’s role—more so than the protection of the source, contrary to contemporary discourse about why journalists need to adopt such technologies.
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Jennifer R. Henrichsen is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. She has received fellowships from Columbia University, the Knight Foundation and First Look Media and has been a consultant twice to UNESCO. A Fulbright Research Scholar, Jennifer holds master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Geneva. In 2011, she co-wrote a book, War on Words: Who Should Protect Journalists? (Praeger). She co-edited the book, Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State (Columbia University Press, 2017) and she is currently co-editing a book on national security and journalism for Oxford University Press.