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Tip: Use transcription services safely



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Transcription tools – such as Otter.ai, Descript or Rev – have become a lifesaver for journalists. It means you do not have to manually transcribe word-for-word your interviews, in a few clicks you can convert your audio into a pretty accurate transcription.

However, when you upload audio to a transcription service, you are giving a copy of that recording to a company. This raises big questions over how safe they are for journalists to use, given how sensitive sources can be.

Freedom of the Press Foundation have featured a blog post by Dr Martin Shelton and Yael Grauer, where they analyse popular transcription services and their data security measures. They recommend avoiding transcription if the audio could put people at risk if it ends up in the wrong hands.

To use transcription services safely, use long unique passwords randomised by a password manager. If you have access to a service that uses two-factor authentication, like Rev or Otter.ai’s Business subscription, turn it on. Delete transcription files from the service once you have downloaded them to your device, and check your organisation’s retention policy (or consider making a personal retention policy if you are freelance).

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