A couple of "leak" stories which are of relevance to the WikiLeakS.org project (which has now made public more of its Wiki front end pages, although actual upload and editing functionality has not yet been enabled):
- A report in The Times (19th July 2007) about the embedded EXIF data which reveals the Camera Model and Serial Number, which may be used to force the Camera Manufacturer to help to trace the photographer who leaked images of the latest Harry Potter book onto the internet. The risk of being tracked down by copyright lawyers and their private and police investigators would be the same, even if the proposed WikiLeakS.org system had been used in this case, since, currently, there do not seem to be any plans to strip out (optionally or by default) such potentially traceable EXIF meta data.
- Home Office Watch the Liberal Democrat blog which monitors some of the activities of the UK Home Office reveals how an extremely controversial "Big Brother" surveillance policy document was either accidently or deliberately leaked, by being hidden within the background briefing papers regarding a merely "highly controversial" "Big Brother " surveillance policy statement:
Police to get live access to road CCTV
The proposal is to introduce new legislation to give police routine, open door access to all number plate recognition data collected by third parties - Transport for London initially, but in the long run any council or transport authority that runs these cameras.
There will be extensive debate about the merits and disadvantages of these proposals, so instead of that I thought I’d recount the more amusing story of how the story got out.
The government tabled a Written Ministerial Statement explaining about the new arrangement between TfL and the Metropolitan Police. They sent it to Hansard and to the House of Commons Library, who forwarded it to interested MPs.
Unfortunately, someone forgot to turn off "track changes".
The statement had been written over a wholly separate internal document marked "Policy - Restricted" which set out details of:
- the plans to roll out the London scheme nationally with legislation in the autumn
- the split with the Department for Transport over the proposals
- the government’s "handling strategy" for proposals they themselves dub “Big Brother”
The "track changes" facility in Microsoft Word wordprocessor software and file formats has been responsible for sevearl journalistic or political activist "scoops" in the past.
As such interested parties become more familiar with the technique / feature / privacy or security vulnerability, it may be, that in certain circumstances, the ability to "hide" all or part of a more secret document, within another document entirely, or a supposedly redacted or censored version of a document, which is released to the public, may actually be a useful "plausible deniability" option for Government or Corporate whistleblowers and journalistic or other anonymous sources
However, again, the current (not yet functional) online or postal WikiLeakS.org anonymous publishing submission system, does nothing by default or optionally, to check for the presence of such forgotten "track changes" version control data, which might well allow the source of the whistleblower leak to be traced.
Remember, that sometimes, such hidden EXIF meta data or word processor "track changes" version control data, hidden within a file may actually be the most interesting and informative part of the official document itself.