In Dumping Everything, WikiLeaks Spills Private Secrets

AP analysis find there's collateral damage to the innocent, vulnerable
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 23, 2016 5:56 AM CDT
In Dumping Everything, WikiLeaks Spills Private Secrets
In this Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016 photo, a selection of private medical files published by transparency website WikiLeaks is shown in Paris.   (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)

WikiLeaks' global crusade to expose government secrets is causing collateral damage to the privacy of hundreds of innocent people, including survivors of sexual abuse, sick children, and the mentally ill, the AP has found. In the past year alone, the radical transparency group has published medical files belonging to scores of ordinary citizens while many hundreds more have had sensitive family, financial, or identity records posted to the web. WikiLeaks' stated mission is to bring censored or restricted material "involving war, spying and corruption" into the public eye, and its mass publication of personal data is at odds with the site's claim to have championed privacy even as it laid bare the workings of international statecraft. Two standout examples from the AP's lengthy piece:

  • The AP found that WikiLeaks also routinely publishes information easily exploited by criminals. The DNC files published last month carried more than two dozen Social Security and credit card numbers. Two of the people named in the files told the AP they were targeted by identity thieves following the leak, including a retired US diplomat who said he also had to change his number after being bombarded by threatening messages.
  • Files from the Saudi Foreign Ministry were added in the last year, and one Saudi cable named a male teenager who was raped by a man while abroad; a second identified another male teenager who was so violently raped his legs were broken; a third outlined the details of a Saudi man detained for "sexual deviation"—a derogatory term for homosexuality, which is punishable by death in the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom.
Attempts to reach WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were unsuccessful. The AP's article reviews the history of WikiLeaks' approach to privacy, which in earlier days involved a journalist-led redaction effort that was ultimately dismissed as too time consuming. Read in full here. The post-it-all approach has also led to some bizarre files being available. (More WikiLeaks stories.)

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