Technology Arms-Race May Develop Between Reporters & Government

May 20, 2013

Dr. Larry Burriss

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  A mid-state professor says a technology arms-race may develop between news organizations and the government following last week’s revelation that the U.S. Department of Justice secretly accessed the phone records of 20 reporters.

Dr. Larry Burriss is an attorney specializing in media law and teaches journalism at Middle Tennessee State University. He says the New Yorker Magazine has already developed what it’s calling a “hack-proof” system to protect its sources.

“What this will involve is both encryption and hardware protection. Right now the government is pretty much able to break any kind of encryption, so there may be some hardware changes that news outlets will be using to try to protect their sources.”

Burriss says that if the government’s subpoena of news outlet phone records stands, it will likely have a chilling effect on news sources.

“Whistle-blowers are going to be less likely to come forward, which will mean we will have less information about what the government’s doing. We need to know when the government oversteps its bounds and it’s the news media that provides that.”

Burriss says the issue is already complicated, and is made even more so by the war on terrorism, but insists that public discussion on the subject is absolutely vital.

You can read Dr. Burriss' full comments on the issue in the latest edition of Burriss on Media.