“This Machine Kills Secrets,” a novel by Andy Greenberg, gives an account of historical events that led to the creation of WikiLeaks. The novel discusses concepts, such as privacy and civil liberties, which were the reason the site was started in the first place. The novel also goes into the advanced technology, which makes WikiLeaks possible.
One of these technologies is a program called Tor, which allows leakers to the site to remain anonymous. Tor, and other similar encryption technologies, is only in use today thanks to people battling the government for the right to use them. The fight made in order to use these technologies took place in the 1990’s in what were called the crypto wars. The crypto wars weren’t really wars in the usual sense of the word, and were really more debates and discussions than anything else. These debates happened on online forums where Julian Assange was both a reader as well as a contributor.
Although encryption technologies have made it possible for leakers to remain anonymous, sites like WikiLeaks still face many problems. In order for people to be willing to leak, the site must appear trustworthy to would be leakers. If potential leakers don’t know who is behind the site, they won’t leak information in case the government runs it. This creates a problem because once the site is no longer anonymous it faces issues like spies joining the staff and threats to its online presence.
The ability for leakers to remain anonymous is also being threatened in ways that encryption can’t prevent. Companies who face leaks are, in some cases, able to learn the identity of the leaker by seeing who accesses the information on their network. There is also a new mandate that all employees in federal intelligence agencies who take lie detector tests are to be questioned about leaking.
Personally, I can’t decide whether or not WikiLeaks is a good thing or a bad thing. On the one hand, it creates a lot of danger by allowing the whole world access to sensitive information. Some of the information on the site could very well cause a rise in tensions between countries, which, at the best may cause problems with international relations and at worst, the outbreak of wars. The site also has the potential to cause problems with military activity and may place soldiers in even more danger than they originally faced. On the other hand, WikiLeaks really does do a lot of good. Governments will, hopefully, respond to the knowledge that secrets are no longer all that safe by increasing their transparency. The threat of sensitive information becoming public also encourages governments to stop activities and such that their people would disapprove. The site also helps expose corruption, and therefore limit corruption.
What is your opinion on the site, WikiLeaks? Do you think that it is harmful? Do you think that WikiLeaks is more beneficial than anything else? Do you think that people have a right to know their government’s secrets?