Netzwerk Recherche, the German association of investigative journalists, is warning journalists worldwide of an immediate threat of being spyed on by browser add-ons.

Investigations by NDR Television revealed that browser add-ons like “Web of Trust” are collecting user data which are then sold to third parties. 

The NDR editorial team possesses a data set that includes the browser history of approximately three million users in August 2016, including those of journalists. On the basis of these data one can reconstruct, for example, which journeys a journalist has booked and which topic, people or institutions he or she is investigating.

“Data spying is a hitherto completely underestimated threat to journalism,” says Julia Stein, chair of Netzwerk Recherche. “We are calling on the judiciary to stop criminal data trafficking and to punish the perpetrators. We demand politicians to review current laws and strengthen international law enforcement.”

Netzwerk Recherche recommends that journalists review their IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities. “We have to do our utmost to ensure that our sources and our research are safeguarded against attackers,” says Stein. Suspicious add-ons should be disabled. The parallel use of different browsers can be useful.

Additional information (in German):