Press | Op-ed

How Scientists Can Safeguard Themselves Online

Scientists are always at risk of digital harassment by bad actors looking to undermine scientific credibility and progress, but there are protective steps they can take.

Scientists use email daily to communicate with colleagues and others, typically with the expectation that their messages won’t be seen by prying eyes. By now, we’re all familiar with and on guard against threats to our email accounts from phishing and hacking attempts. However, as some scientists—particularly those studying sensitive topics such as climate change or vaccines—unfortunately have learned, emails and other electronic messages they send and receive can also be subject to scrutiny through the use of aggressive open records requests, subpoenas, and leaks. Scientists’ increasing use of social media and other digital platforms both professionally and personally—and for some, their increased interest in advocacy and activism—has made them still more vulnerable to harassment and attacks….

As an attorney at the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, I counsel scientists on ways to strengthen their online privacy and follow their institutions’ policies for safeguarding communications. Hacking is the most invasive risk, but it’s not the only way that scientists’ data, research, and emails may be released publicly. My colleagues and I have seen scientists targeted with legal methods, most notably by groups and individuals using open records laws to seek thousands of emails.

Read more at Eos

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