A Bradley University cybersecurity expert is leading research aimed at shielding whistleblower anonymity.
Young said with modern technology, it’s harder than ever for whistleblowers to stay anonymous and avoid retaliation for speaking out.
“Getting rid of all your devices, buying burner phones with cash and going to a Starbucks 20 cities away and all that. Well, did you take an Uber there? Did you walk that far? Well, even if you did, you got caught on surveillance cameras," he said.
That breadcrumb trail of data makes it possible for the right person to figure out who a whistleblower is. And the consequences of being discovered often discourage people with good intentions from stepping forward in the first place, Young said.
“Their life is ruined, they can’t get hired, their career is basically over, they have to file for bankruptcy. Like, all of the negative consequences that are really shooting the messenger," he said. "It had nothing to do with anything they did to cause problems for anybody other than the ones that wanted to hide the wrongdoing in the first place.”
He said that’s why it’s important to work to make it easier for them to report and maintain as much anonymity as possible.
Young's research on whistleblowing will pull in experts from the fields of ethics, cybersecurity, engineering, and other professions that are discussing the issues in their own academic silos. He hopes by pulling these diverse groups together, better solutions might be found to protect whistleblowers and increase transparency in organizations and government.
The team's research will be used for recommendations for legislative changes and to craft modern best practices for whistleblowers.