1. What is OpenLeaks?

OpenLeaks is a technical framework and Knowledge Base aimed at enabling whistleblowers to disseminate data to third parties, such as NGOs, labor unions, the general public, and the media. We do not aim to publish documents directly, but rather to enable third parties to safely receive and work on documents themselves.

Our main focus is on getting submissions safely into the right hands, ultimately leaving the job of publication to the recipient. There are many institutions that need to receive and publish leaks which are regarded as trusted by the public. Our idea is to enable them with the technology and knowledge to receive digital data. Our resources are limited and unfortunately we cannot work with everybody. Therefore our members will be chosen from many countries and various sections of society, with the intention of diversity. Our goal is to increase the chances of analysis and full publication by providing a wider range of choices for a source to submit their material to where it can be used for something good.

It should be noted that OpenLeaks does not decide to whom the material is leaked; this choice is in the hands of the sources. A potential misconception is that source material given to other projects will definitely get published. No one single project, including our own, can speak all languages and verify all leaks by putting them into context. Therefore OpenLeaks concentrates its efforts on the specific problems that surround the reception of leaks. If you would like to know more, have a look at our video which begins to explain visually, what we do and how or visit the Concept page.

2. Who are OpenLeaks?

This question has various answers. The OpenLeaks basis and infrastructure is operated by a group of enthusiasts with various backgrounds, from a range of countries. Beyond that, the full picture is that OpenLeaks will be a community, comprised of the networks' members and promoters of transparency, which will be independent organizations, media outlets, unions, NGOs or other initiatives.

3. Why should people trust OpenLeaks with sensitive information?

Because they are not just trusting us alone, but the OpenLeaks community. More specifically, though, the question of trust in someone whom you supply with confidential material has two major aspects: 1) trust in the integrity of those receiving the material and handling it, 2) trust in those supplying and operating the technical infrastructure.

The issue of trust in the recipient is addressed by allowing a whistleblower to leak material to a specific entity. A whistleblower can therefore choose, for example, a member of the media, special-interest NGOs, or labor union that is suitable in her eyes - any reputable organization with a potential interest in the material, and that is part of the OpenLeaks community.

Regarding the second point, our technological infrastructure can be independently reviewed, ensuring that the services offered to sources and members alike receive independent analysis and scrutiny. We feel that a transparent approach is much better than cloak-and-dagger tactics, and believe that trust in us should be based on critical scrutiny - just as it should be for everyone else.

4. What are the legal implications?

Countries with an independent press generally have laws in place protecting the necessary activities of journalists so that, for example, receiving information from confidential sources and publishing stories based on that information are legal activities. In some cases, submitters exposing corruption or wrongdoing are also covered under whistleblower protection laws. But often the situation is not very clear. Specific legal issues concerning the handling of leaked digital material are unknown and need to be cataloged. This and other information will be documented in the OpenLeaks Knowledge Base.

However, every whistleblower should be aware that we cannot give authoritative legal advice since we are not legal professionals, and that all content within our Knowledge Base should be checked locally and/or verified by themselves in order to avoid trouble.

Besides providing better insight into legal implications by region, using our service can actually help to shield our members from both judicial and extra-judicial prosecution. It is hard to compel a member to reveal the name of a source whose identity is unknown. It has to be taken into account, however, that the protection journalists do enjoy in many democracies are not always granted to other initiatives like NGOs or unions that fight for our freedom too.

We want to make leaking safer - not only for whistleblowers and those who publish their material but also for us, as intermediary and provider of a whistleblowing platform. Therefore OpenLeaks neither receives or publishes any leaks. We believe, that the existence of a growing community with all sorts of backgrounds (human rights, investigative journalism, etc), will hopefully defend the OpenLeaks system against any censoring attacks anywhere in the world, thus making the system sustainable.

5. What is your roadmap?

OpenLeaks has entered an alpha phase, with fairly limited participation in January 2011. You will find the latest list of participants at our Members page, soon. This will last until mid 2011, by which time we expect to move into beta and integrate more members. During the current period, we are concentrating on building a proper base for the future development of the project.

6. How and why is OpenLeaks different from WikiLeaks?

OpenLeaks is based on a more decentralized concept. We do not seek to publish information ourselves, but rather to enable third parties to do so. The public already trusts them, with their existing capabilities and experience to analyze and work on submitted material. We, in effect, simply enable them to receive information that they otherwise might not get access to in their local jurisdictional environment.

OpenLeaks is not involved in the direct editing and release of documents. Our intention is to function, as much as possible, as a mere conduit (akin to the telephone exchange and the post) between the whistleblower and an organization of their choice. This means that OpenLeaks does not accept submissions or publish leaked material directly.

There are two major parts to the process of leaking: submission of material and publication of it. By concentrating on the submission part we attain two desirable goals: 1) increasing the security for all parties involved, 2) improving scalability by minimizing bottlenecks and reducing complexity in our organization. To better understand this process and its difference to how other whistleblowing platforms work, watch our video.

OpenLeaks is, therefore, not an enhancement of, or a replacement for, WikiLeaks, nor is it a competitor. Rather, it is a complementary project providing capabilities other than those that WikiLeaks does, or can, provide.

7. What is your relation to WikiLeaks?

A number of us were previously involved with WikiLeaks. None of us has any remaining association with WikiLeaks, and all of us had left by the end of September 2010 (despite other claims). While we fully support the stated goals of WikiLeaks, and wish them success, OpenLeaks is an independent project.

8. Can members of the OpenLeaks community censor the documents they receive?

Data submitted to the OpenLeaks community can become increasingly available to all members (see Concept section for a full explanation of this process). Upon submission, whistleblowers have the possibility to specify whether or not the information they provide should also be made available to the community at large. Keeping the majority of leaks open within the community will, ideally, foster a general attitude of publishing only full releases of original documents, since if this does not occur, it will be easy for the community to trace the cause of any censorship.

9. How can I support OpenLeaks?

There are many ways in which you can support the OpenLeaks community. You can for instance, donate money or hosting space to help us keep our services free for our members. You can also contribute to our Knowledge Base. Find out more details at our Support section.

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