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Information security for criminological ethnographers

Kindynis, T. ORCID: 0000-0003-2183-6352 & Fleetwood, J. (2024). Information security for criminological ethnographers. Crime, Media, Culture: An International Journal, doi: 10.1177/17416590231219746


Information security refers to ‘the practice of defending information from unauthorised access’. Information security practices include everyday activities such as protecting your bank details, or keeping your workplace logins secure. Despite increasingly restrictive approaches to research ethics, academia continues to lag behind journalism when it comes to best practice with regards to information security. This article discusses information security as it pertains to qualitative and especially ethnographic research into crime and deviance. In doing so, the article addresses a gap in the methodological literature by drawing on lessons and real-world examples from journalism, academia and activism, in order to offer guidance for researchers seeking to maintain information security in a digital, networked social world. The article proceeds in three parts. First, the article considers what information researchers might want to protect, who they might want to protect it from and what the consequences might be if they failed to do so (an exercise known as ‘threat modelling’). The different powers, resources and capacities of, and threats posed by, state actors such as the police and intelligence agencies, as well as an array of non-state actors, are considered. Second, the article outlines some general principles of information security and how they might apply to ethnographic research into crime and deviance. Third, the article discusses a range of practical considerations when it comes to using mobile phones (cell phones), social media, passwords and encryption in the course of researching crime and deviance.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Author(s) 2024. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Publisher Keywords: Anonymity, digital security, encryption, ethics, ethnography, information security, methodology, privacy, surveillance, threat modelling
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs
School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
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