Suelette Dreyfus

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Suelette Dreyfus
OccupationResearcher, journalist, writer
Notable work

Dr. Suelette Dreyfus is a technology researcher, journalist, and writer. Her fields of research include information systems,[1][2][3] digital security and privacy, the impact of technology on whistleblowing,[4][5] health informatics[6] and e-Education. Her work examines digital whistleblowing as a form of freedom of expression and the right of dissent from corruption.[7] She is a researcher and lecturer in the Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne, as well as the Principal Researcher on an international research project on the impact of digital technologies on whistleblowing.


Dreyfus' work in e-Health[8][9] has focussed on the patient information experience in the health system and the role of technology in error incident reporting in hospital settings.[10][11] She has co-invented innovative prototypes in information design for pathology reports with the aim of transforming them from simple lab information outputs, into multi-layered information tools.[12][13] These tools would then allow doctors to improve communication with patients, and then patients with their families regarding the status of disease in progressive and chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. In such diseases patient adherence to lifestyle, exercise, diet and medication regimes can have a significant impact on diseases progression. Knowledge and understanding of disease status have been shown to improve adherence.

Her research in e-Education has focussed on using social media to teach foreign language to English-speaking primary school students, particularly for difficult languages that require more hours of practice such as Asian languages.[14]

Dreyfus has written on the importance of protecting Freedom of Information access (FOI), the problems of information asymmetry and ‘tool asymmetry’ between the individual citizen and the state, and the trend of ‘security clearance creep’. She stated, ‘Information Systems are a good way to organize data, but they’re not a form of democratic, free and open government.’ She gave a speech to 300 senior civil servants in Australia on this topic at the ANZSOG annual conference in August 2015.


German cover from Underground (2011)

She is the author of the 1997 cult classic Underground: Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier. The book describes the exploits of a group of Australian, American, and British hackers during the late 1980s and early 1990s, among them Julian Assange who is credited as a researcher for the book.

The book was first published under the Mandarin imprint (Random House Australia). The author subsequently released it in e-version in 2001 for free, which was unusual at the time for a professionally published author at a major publishing house. More than 400,000 copies of the book were downloaded for free in the following two years. She donated the e-book to Project Gutenberg’s library so it would be available in perpetuity to the public, in various text formats, for free. The introduction written specifically for the Project Gutenberg edition states that another purpose of the donation was so that the book would be easily accessible by the vision-impaired.

In 2011, a new edition of the book was published, with updated chapters. The book has average a reader score of 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon. On Goodreads the book has an average score of 4.15 out of 5 based on 373 ratings.

Underground has been translated into seven other languages, including French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional) and Russian. The German edition incorporated a QR reader code into the front cover design which took the reader to a secret recorded audio message about the book. The fact that the cover design was actually a functional QR code was not publicised nor documented inside the book itself but was left for the curious reader to discover on his or her own. Thus it echoed the hacker discovery experiences described in the work’s literary non-fiction stories. It was published in 2012 by German publisher Heyne Taschenbuch in paperback, having been first published in hardback by Benediction Classics in Berlin in 2011. The German, French and Spanish editions of the books have different introductions and/or conclusions, with unique commentary for each edition, written by Dreyfus. Dreyfus is represented by literary agents Curtis Brown in Australia and the UK.

Dreyfus was an Associate Producer and interview subject for the documentary In the Realm of the Hackers, inspired by Underground, in 2003.[15] Underground was also the basis for a 2012 film by Australian screenwriter and director Robert Connolly.


She has been a contributor to The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Independent, and The Age, as well as to radio programs including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Late Night Live with Philip Adams.[citation needed] She trained and worked as a staff reporter for a daily newspaper in Australia.[citation needed]

In 2015 and 2016, Dreyfus has run training for journalists in a major media organisation and in a journalism school on digital and physical methods of protecting sources and data. She also runs information security workshops for journalism students in The University of Melbourne with Andrew Clausen and Yung Ju Chua.[citation needed]

Her essays have also appeared in The Conversation, discussing the importance of protecting public access to strong encryption, the need for legal protections for whistleblowers, and the security paradox of legislation enforcing retention of metadata for two years for everyone in Australia.[16][17][18]


  1. ^ Lederman RM, Dreyfus S, Matchan J E, Knott JC, Milton S. Electronic error-reporting systems: A case study into the impact on nurse reporting of medical errors. Nursing Outlook. Mosby. 2013, Vol. 61, Issue 6, pp. 417 - 426.
  2. ^ Pang, F. R Sharma, R Lederman, S Dreyfus (2011). "Organisational Culture and Organisational Impacts of Information Systems: A Review of the Empirical Literature". Proceedings of 21st Australasian Conference on Information Systems, Brisbane, Australia.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Peng F, Kurnia S, Lederman RM, Dreyfus S. Information Systems and Hospital Work: A structuralist investigation. Proceedings of the 16TH PACIFIC ASIA CONFERENCE ON INFORMATION SYSTEMS. Association for Information Systems. 2012.
  4. ^ Miceli MP, Dreyfus S, Near JP. Outsider 'whistleblowers': Conceptualizing and distinguishing 'bell-ringing' behavior. International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. 2014. Editors: Brown AJ, Lewis D, Moberly RE, Vandekerckhove W.
  5. ^ Bosua R, Milton S, Dreyfus S, Lederman R. Going public: Researching external whistleblowing in a new media age. International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd. 2014. Editors: Brown AJ, Lewis D, Moberly RE, Vandekerckhove W.
  6. ^ Lederman R, Kurnia S, Peng F, Dreyfus S (2015). "Tick a box, any box: A case study on the unintended consequences of system misuse in a hospital emergency department". Journal of Information Technology Teaching Cases. 5 (2).
  7. ^ Brown, AJ, Vanderkerckhov, W, Dreyfus, S (2014). ‘The relationship between transparency, whistleblowing and public trust’. Research Handbook on Transparency, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham UK
  8. ^ Kee, K., Knott, J.C., Dreyfus, S., Lederman, R., Milton, S, Joe, K. 2012. "One hundred tasks an hour: An observational study of emergency department consultant activities". Emergency Medicine Australasia, Vol 24 (3) pp 294–302. Retrieved 11 June 2012
  9. ^ Lederman R, Dreyfus S. Managing Health Information Delivery Processes for Better Medical Decision Making. DSS 2.0 - Supporting Decision Making with New Technologies. IOS Press. 2014, Vol. 261.
  10. ^ Smith S, Lederman R, Monagle P, Alzougool BM, Naish L, Dreyfus S. Individually tailored client-focused reports for ubiquitous devices: An experimental analysis. 23rd Australasian Conference on Information Systems. Australasian Conference on Information Systems ACIS. 2012.
  11. ^ Lederman RM, Dreyfus S, Matchan J E, Knott JC, Milton S. Electronic error-reporting systems: A case study into the impact on nurse reporting of medical errors. Nursing Outlook. Mosby. 2013, Vol. 61, Issue 6, pp. 417 - 426.
  12. ^ Lederman, R and Dreyfus, S. (2014). ‘Tailoring Patient Information To Encourage Patient Engagement’. ECIS e-Health Workshop Tel Aviv University
  13. ^ Dreyfus, S., Lederman, R., Smith P., Monagle, P. (2011) "Customising pathology report design for patient use". Electronic Journal of Health Informatics. Vol 6, No. 2.
  14. ^ Slaughter, Y, Hajek, J, Smith, W, Chang, S, Dreyfus, S. (2015). ‘The online delivery of language programs: Bridging the divide in languages education.’ AFMLTA 20th National Languages Conference. Melbourne
  15. ^ "Suelette Dreyfus". IMDb.
  16. ^ Dreyfus, S and Chang, S (2016). ‘FBI vs Apple: giving up security and privacy could hurt us all’. The Conversation. 24 Feb.
  17. ^ Dreyfus, S (2016). ‘Governments undermining encryption will do more harm than good’. The Conversation. 13 Jan.
  18. ^ Dreyfus, S (2015). ‘The security paradox: individual privacy versus digital driftnets’. The Conversation. 30 March.

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