Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wikileaks -- when does freedom of information go too far?

I read with great interest this article on, a fascinating site that allows whistle-blowers to do their thing. As the article mentions, it's already played a huge part in several astonishing cases around the world -- disclosure of information about the looting of Kenya by a former president, money laundering by a Swiss bank, and US interrogation procedures in Guantanamo Bay.

The article looks at criticism of its "free-for-all" policy, publishing actors' tax bills with their SSNs, or scripts for upcoming movies, and for its publishing of Scientology and other secretive religious documents.

All this got me wondering, where should the line be drawn? The old saying "information wants to be free" seems to be the key ethic of wikileaks itself, but how is publishing movie scripts or innocuous tax bills at all useful?

I'm all for freedom of information, but if there's no greater good to be gained from the publishing of it, it seems purely malicious and somewhat counterproductive to the aims of wikileaks itself (establishing it as a reputable source for information, for example). There are certain industries where whistleblowing, although legal, will get you in a lot of trouble if you go through the official channels, and wikileaks adds a good level of anonymous abstraction to the process which can certainly be used for a lot of good.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

i think people should get their facts strait.

1. the tax bill is not inocuous, but apparently reveals a complex fraud

2. the alternative script was released AFTER the movie screened and on another site, as part of a creativity dispute between the writers and the studio. when this other site was censored, wikileaks republished the script to protest using the legal system to censor 3rd party internet sites over a mere creativity dispute.

Catherine said...

Okay, sure, but leaving peoples' private information (I get the impression SSNs are a big deal in the US and can be used for identity theft) on the leaked document is not innocuous at all.

Republishing a script to protest censorship of third party sites isn't a whistleblowing thing, or really a freedom of information thing -- there's a difference between freedom of information as regards things which could harm people, or which expose fraud or injustices, and protests. Perhaps a site like "wikicensorship" should be made, oh wait, it's called thepiratebay :)