Joana and Orlando are investigative journalists and human-rights defenders in Latin America. They work in an organization that investigates and reports on private companies in Latin America, fighting for transparency and accountability and denouncing human-right violations of these companies, especially towards local communities.

They use Tails for online investigation: to gather data and visit the websites of companies and governments. They don't redact or publish their reports from Tails and only use it to gather intelligence.

As a policy of their organization, everybody uses Ubuntu; except Orlando who prefers Debian. Some staff run Windows from virtual machines for some applications. Another policy of their organization is to encrypt all emails using OpenPGP.

Few organizations in Latin America are conscious and concerned about digital security and it's still something very new. People started being more cautious after learning about the malware infections of journalists in Mexico; at least some journalists but not really the human-rights organizations.

Working between Tails and Ubuntu

They use Tails on the laptops provided by their organization. They reboot into Tails to do their online work and switching is not a problem from them. They use an additional USB stick to save the documents that they want to share between Tails and their regular operating system. They use MAT to clean the metadata on these documents but the USB sticks are not encrypted. Since their Ubuntu is encrypted, they can't access it from Tails.

Working with local communities

They often collaborate with local communities affected by the companies that they investigate. Joana and Orlando teach them about digital security, how to communicate with them, and do research online by themselves. Tails (and Tor) is what they recommend.

But for people in the communities, Tails seems very sophisticated, too technical, only for spies, or too much paranoia. Joana and Orlando work on these stereotypes and fears but it's challenging because they don't have a technical background themselves. So Tails remains hard to adopt for most people. The communities also have little money and this doesn't help. Tails works better in the communities where they find a champion who's more interested in digital security and more into computers.

Applications they use to do their work

For their investigation and reporting, they use mostly LibreOffice, PSPP (statistical analysis tool), QGIS (geographic information system), Zotero (research sources organizer), GIMP, and Inkscape.

They already have everything they need in Tails because they only use Tails for online investigation and data gathering and analyse the data on Ubuntu or Debian.

For their communication they use Jitsi and Mumble (hosted by a trusted provider). They have Signal on their personal phones but people in the communities all have WhatsApp.

They also have a Nextcloud hosted by a trusted provider.

Data loss and backups

They don't have much in their persistence, mostly a copy of their OpenPGP keys (that they also have on their laptops) and some configuration. So it's not a big problem if they loose their persistence and they don't back it up.

They used to have an internal backup server in their office but its hardware broke some months ago and it hasn't been replaced yet. For the time being, people usually back up their files from Ubuntu to external hard disks.

What they like

  • Cloning is very useful when working with communities.

  • Tails became easier to setup and configure. For example, now you can install Tails from Ubuntu and Debian.

  • They really like MAT and use it a lot. Metadata and MAT are also a good example to explain why you need to protect your data, your files, and communications. A big limitation is that MAT cannot clean PDF files which is a format that they use a lot.

  • They like that Tails connects automatically to Tor.

  • Orlando likes that Tails is based on Debian because he's been using Debian himself for a while.

  • They really like having Thunderbird and a copy of their OpenPGP keys in persistence. Before that they suffered a lot from not having access to their encrypted emails when they didn't carry their work computers with them. Now they can start Tails and access it anywhere, even on holidays!

  • They like the manuals on the website, what is Tails, how it works, etc. It's good to empower people who are new to Tails.

What they dislike

  • The verification to check that the ISO is genuine is still quite complicated. Orlando managed to do it from the command line but without really understanding. He also did it from the website and there it was more automatic. He likes the command line instructions as it makes him feel safer even if he only copies from the tutorial.

  • Tails is complicated to start on newer computer which are much more locked down by companies. One time, after trying Tails on the computer of a colleague, it couldn't boot Windows anymore.

  • Joana once had problems with upgrade on a USB stick. She could do the first two upgrade but then it was not possible to do the third one.

  • Some governmental websites cannot be accessed from Tor. Orlando thought that the other browser (Unsafe Browser?) was added to Tails to make this possible.