Electronic surveillance laws and cyber security of journalists in the UK and Australia

Professor Angela Daly, University of Dundee

Amplified by the Covid-19 pandemic, the increased use of electronic tools by journalists has enhanced their work—through improved information gathering and greater dissemination—but also left them vulnerable when it comes to cyber security.

A woman smiling for the camera
Professor Angela Daly
RSE SAPHIRE Fund awardee

Professor Angela Daly, University of Dundee, received a £10K RSE SAPHIRE Fund award with Dr David McMenemy, University of Glasgow, to strengthen an existing collaboration with colleagues at Deakin University (Australia). Their research looked at how journalists in Scotland and Australia understood and were aware of cyber security and surveillance and what, if anything, they did to keep themselves safe online. Journalists from different kinds of outlets (TV, newspapers, web publications), and backgrounds (including freelance, editorial, broadcast) and media lawyers were interviewed in both Scotland and Australia. Through these conversations, Daly and the team heard about the journalists’ experiences and knowledge of cyber security and related issues, such as online harassment, the impact of surveillance by the government, and areas of law which impede their work, such as defamation.

In their report, the researchers devised three recommendations for journalists, media organisations and policymakers:

  1. More ongoing cyber security education for journalists, recognising their specific needs, such as secure communications with sources. Additionally, more support should be offered to media organisations, recognising them as businesses that play an important democratic role, as well as a commercial one.
  2. More legal protection for journalists, including the reform of surveillance and defamation laws regarding journalism. More resources on these matters should be accessible to journalists.
  3. More resources and sustainability are needed to support the (cyber) future of journalism in Scotland.
Professor Angela Daly’s report Cyber security, surveillance and journalism in Scotland

Professor Angela Daly commented,

Without this RSE award, we would not have been able to carry out this research with a diverse range of Scotland-based journalists. The award allowed us to take on a Research Assistant, Dr Elaine Robinson, University of Dundee, and to partner with Australian colleagues and draw comparative insights between the two places. It also enabled us to employ Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design graduate and Dundee-based designer Alice McConnell to design the academic report as a newspaper, which was then produced by the Newspaper Club.

At the end of last year, Professor Daly and her team launched the report through a Cyber Security, Surveillance and Journalism webinar, they also presented at the University of London, Information Law and Policy Centre conference, Online Safety in a Connected World, and Professor Daly authored a Herald article on the UK’s National Security Bill and why it would be damaging to journalism on the basis of this research.

Professor Daly is now holding conversations with researchers internationally to discuss how they can further the work with journalists and other professionals that are needing access to confidential communications, such as lawyers and medical staff. Professor Daly hopes to offer insights from her research to the journalism profession and policymakers in Scotland, Australia and beyond.

You might also like