New Yorker launches “open-source anonymous inbox” built by Aaron Swartz

aaron swartz kevin poulsen strongbox

The New Yorker on Wednesday launched Strongbox, an open-source system that allows readers to anonymously submit confidential documents. Strongbox was built by Aaron Swartz and Wired editor Kevin Poulsen. Strongbox lets users “share information, messages, and files with our writers and editors and is designed to provide you with a greater degree of anonymity and security than afforded by conventional e-mail.”

To submit documents, users must download the Tor Project software. They can then access Strongbox and submit information under a randomly generated code name. The New Yorker explains, “If a writer or editor at The New Yorker wants to contact you about the information you have submitted, he or she will leave a message for you in Strongbox. These messages are the only way we will be able to reach you, and this message can only be accessed using your code name.”

In a New Yorker blog post, Poulsen writes that he and Swartz began developing Strongbox, which was nicknamed DeadDrop, in 2011. He says:

“By December, 2012, Aaron’s code was stable, and a squishy launch date had been set. Then, on January 11th, he killed himself. In the immediate aftermath, it was hard to think of anything but the loss and pain of his death. A launch, like so many things, was secondary. His suicide also raised new questions: Who owned the code now? (Answer: he willed all his intellectual property to Sean Palmer, who gives the project his blessing.) Would his closest friends and his family approve of the launch proceeding? (His friend and executor, Alec Resnick, reports that they do.) The New Yorker, which has a long history of strong investigative work, emerged as the right first home for the system. The New Yorkersversion is called Strongbox; it went online this morning.”

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