The methods outlined here are for sending sensitive or private news tips or providing supporting information and documents only.
Some of the secure methods described here are traditional, common and simple to use; others may require more technical know-how but provide more protection. Bear in mind that even the most secured communication methods could leave identifying traces. Please consider the pros and cons of the specific communication method you choose.
The Chronicle will take extensive steps to verify any information sent to us. State and federal laws provide extensive protections for journalists who promise to keep confidential the identity of sources who provide information. While we may decide to grant anonymity to sources, such decisions are only made after discussions with a possible source.
To contact us with sensitive or private tips and information
Mail delivered through the U.S. Postal Service is a secure means of communication. Use a public mailbox, not a post office. If you are concerned about privacy, consider using a mailbox far from your home or office.
Our address is:
The San Francisco Chronicle
901 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94103
You can reach our investigative team by telephone at (415) 777-7924. For anonymous tips, however, consider other, more secure methods.
You can send us email, encrypted or unencrypted, at firstname.lastname@example.org. A number of services are freely available to enable encrypted email, such as Mailvelope and Enigmail. Emails can be encrypted by using cryptographic keys, which are generated in pairs and are used to verify senders and recipients. Each of the tools listed above can generate public and private keys. Never share your private key as it is used to decrypt emails intended for you. For anonymous tips and greater security, though, consider other methods listed below. Our public key fingerprint is 85BD FD92 A5E6 529E 7969 9EA2 E9C5 9908 B427 844F. Our public key is available here.
You can reach us by using the Signal app on your mobile device. Signal is a free, open-source messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption, so that only the sender and the recipient can read the content. The app also lets users set messages to self-destruct from all devices automatically. Signal retains very little information about users, and does not retain metadata related to specific communications, but it is tied to the phone number of the user’s device. To reach us via Signal, add this number to your contact list: (415) 636-1215.
SecureDrop is an open-source, encrypted document submission system developed by Freedom of the Press Foundation that enables secure and anonymous transmission of documents and communications. The system uses the anonymizing Tor browser to access the Internet, and it generates a unique passphrase you’ll need if you want to check back for replies from us or if you have additional information to submit.
The Chronicle’s SecureDrop service can only be accessed using the Tor browser, which helps protect your identity, location and the information you exchange on the Internet. We recommend that when you use SecureDrop, that you do it on a computer that is free of malware and that is not being monitored, and that you use a public Wi-Fi network.
To get started:
- Download and install the Tor browser bundle from https://www.torproject.org/
- Open the Tor browser and copy this url into the browser address bar: http://nrwvazcz6figxpg5.onion
- From this url, you will be able to send messages and files to a secure location that we will check periodically.
- You will be provided with a codename. We will not know your codename, but you will be able to use it to log back into the system to receive replies from The Chronicle or to make additional submissions.
- For a greater level of security and privacy, consider using the Tails operating system.
Other things to remember:
Digital communications can leave a trail that might identify you. SecureDrop is designed to minimize these digital trails by, among other things:
- Not logging information on your IP address, browser or computer.
- Encrypting your data in transit and at rest.
- Minimizing metadata.
- Using Tor to encrypt and anonymize your communications with us.
- Physically isolating SecureDrop from the rest of our network.
Note: No system is 100 percent secure, and even with these measures, there might be a risk of someone discovering who you are or what you are sending. There are methods to scrub documents of embedded metadata that could help identify you. But know that documents can retain metadata despite efforts to remove it.
In addition to using SecureDrop, we recommend that you:
- Use an operating system that helps preserve your privacy and anonymity, such as Tails.
- Take care to delete trails of communication that you store on your computer, such as copies of messages or your secure code name assigned when using the service.
Like all software, SecureDrop and any of the other software and services mentioned above could have security bugs that are exploitable. We do not make any warranties as to SecureDrop, Signal, Mailvelope, Enigmail or any other third-party services or systems; use of them is on an "as is" basis, at your own risk.
Last updated: 03/11/2020