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New bitcoin app provides financial incentive for future leakers

Published time: June 13, 2014 03:59
Reuters / Jim Urquhart

Reuters / Jim Urquhart

A pair of software developers has unveiled a piece of open source technology that aims to make it possible for anyone hoping to leak secret information to be paid in bitcoin, a model that could make for-profit classified disclosures a thing of the future.

Amir Taaki and Peter Todd told Wired magazine they are still at work on the program known as PayPub, but hope that the prototype creates the notion that information will become even more decentralized. Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and other whistleblowers have traditionally been motivated by their ideals, although PayPub creates the possibility that money will be a major incentive for future leakers.

“I've wanted for a while to make a marketplace where people can leak information and others can pay for those leaks,” said Taaki, who has made headlines in the past for his anarchy-related bitcoin initiatives. “Leakers are taking a risk, and they should be rewarded.”

PayPub is not a publishing tool, although the founders admitted that they were inspired by WikiLeaks and similar tools that whistleblowers have used. A person would still need to find their own way to publish classified material – whether it be Tor, a torrent site, or something similar – but they might soon be able to take advantage of the PayPub app to fund a possible life after their leak.

When you add a monetary component, you can get data from people who don't want to pull a Snowden for nothing,” Todd told Wired's Andy Greenberg. “This is a power motivator.”

The still-new technology includes a process by which a leaker gives a potential buyer a small preview of the leaked material and a possible price-point. If the buyer hopes to learn more he can send the whistleblower bitcoin addresses that can only be opened by the intended recipient.

PayPub's potential to create controversy, especially in hypothetical instances where a corporate executive might leak details to a competitor for millions of dollars, is an obvious marketing tool for the creators, although Taaki said those headlines will only help inform more people about the new app.

Only the powerful have something to fear from information freedom,” he said. “You can always say there are good and bad secrets, but the reality is that there is information that people want and need to be public...However we can give incentives to people to liberate information in general is a positive thing.”

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