You think everything has been done on the Internet and then along comes a site that causes you to slap your forehead. The latest is Wikileaks.org, which has quietly turned itself into the best-known feared ‘whistleblower’ website going.
The site explains its purpose rather well.
“Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis. Our primary interests are in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we expect to be of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact…”
The idea is simple. People in companies, government bodies, or any organisations, anywhere in the world, can post documents that embarrass their masters. Inevitably, it’s now under attack from the courts in the US, after documents appeared on it allegedly showing that Swiss bank Julius Baer & Co were laundering money through the Cayman Islands.
Without taking sides on the specifics of the case, it is still extraordinary that a US court could be used to effectively censor a website from publishing documents that relate to a third country, or any country for that matter, however temporarily. That the US host for this site is now offline hasn’t stopped the site from continuing from other countries, showing up the futility of trying to ‘ban’ anything nowadays.
The actions of Julius Baer have probably contributed to more people reading the documents they want taken down, not fewer, as would have been the case had they left them there is their relative obscurity.
Wikileaks will survive, in one form or another, that much is assured. But companies might want to take another look at their own books to see if they have any embarrassing secrets they don’t want stripped bare.
Judging from the 1.2 million+ documents that have turned up on the site in the year or so of its life, there are a lot of secrets out there. We’ve based even published stories on these (alleged) documents ourselves.
It delivers an added nuance to the term ‘data security’ to think of companies securing not just information of value but documents or emails that might show illegality, or that are just embarrassing and awkward. So lock up your documents. You just never know who wants to post them.