WikiLeaks has come under a lot of criticism recently over its hosting of emails and documents from the Sony hack. The reception to that was mixed, and there were serious concerns raised about the morality of hosting private documents belonging to corporations and individuals who are not working for any government agency. Now it looks like WikiLeaks is getting back to its roots, releasing government documents from whistleblowers. After a nearly 5 year hiatus, WikiLeaks has relaunched its leak submission system.
The submission system was originally taken down in 2010, due to fighting between certain staff members and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The staff members didn’t think Assange was doing enough to protect the site’s sources. These staff members took control of the leak submission system, and destroyed the decryption keys to a large number of submitted leaks, rendering them useless.
WikiLeaks originally intended to get the leak submission system up much sooner, but this likely took a backseat to the serious financial concerns which have plagued WikiLeaks over the past few years. Many banks and credit card companies, as well as the online payment service PayPal, have cut off all transactions that would financially support WikiLeaks. Although there were plenty of people willing to donate to keep WikiLeaks operational, there were serious issues in actually getting the money to WikiLeaks.
One of the major concerns in the leak submission system is to guarantee the anonymity of the leaker. A spokesman for WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, stated in an interview with WIRED that the submission system from 5 years ago is not adequate to deal with the advances in government surveillance, and that they put a lot of expertise into upgrading the system. Hrafnsson would not give any specific details on what new security measures were being implemented. However, he did state that the new system had already been online for weeks so they could test it, although not linked to the main site. He gave his assurances that system wouldn’t have been made available unless it was as safe as possible.
Despite these new security measures, a former WikiLeaks staffer still contacted WIRED to warn against using the leak submission system. He stated, “You’d have to be f**king insane to trust Assange.” The former staff member pointed out the fact that WikiLeaks posts huge numbers of documents, without any thought to personal information that might be revealed which could harm innocent people. The Sony documents were a great example of this. Even though there were some documents which had information that was in the public interest, the overwhelming majority of them did not. Many of those documents had Sony employees’ personal information in them, and hosting the documents is a major intrusion on their privacy, and a potential threat to their safety. A more selective release of documents was clearly called for in that case.
Do you think WikiLeaks does more good than harm with the documents it posts? Leave your comments below.