NSA Files: Decoded

NSA Files: Decoded

Organisation: The Guardian US (United States)

Publication Date: 06/05/2014


“NSA Files: Decoded”, published on November 1, 2013, is an explanatory multimedia feature that captures, distills and weaves together complex political, legal and technological issues raised by the Guardian’s reporting on NSA surveillance activities. Employing all of the Internet’s storytelling tools -- including video, inter actives, maps, charts, text and GIFS, the web-native feature guides readers through the revelations in an accessible, relatable and visually compelling way. The feature is built in a single, cohesive, scrollable format that integrates 30-60 second video interviews with key experts -- including US Senator Ron Wyden, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer and others. NSA Files: Decoded includes interactive pieces throughout to help readers make sense of some of the more complex topics, including: visualizing a “digital trail,” the amount of “metadata” one individual can generate, how information travels between countries along the world’s fiber-optic cables, as well as the reach of surveillance at a personal level, with tools linking to users’ Facebook account (with their permission) to show how many people could be caught in NSA dragnets if they became a target of surveillance. Other tools include an interactive that breaks down encryption technology, the laws and legal precedents the NSA asserts to justify surveillance, as well demographic breakdown of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is tasked with judicial oversight of the NSA. The interactive elements are held together with primary source documents and text-based narrative that offer background on how the story originated and developed. All the features come together to create an innovative form of interactive documentary that illustrates complex political, legal and technical issues in an immediate and relevant way. This approach allowed us to contextualize the revelations, explain how they fit together and convey the significance of them to readers. This proved instrumental in furthering a conversation about the consequences of the revelations and, in turn, increasing the quality and impact of the journalism.
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