Hero or villain?

WikiLeaks continues to dominate much of the news as new documents and cables are made public, causing embarrassment to some, amusement to others. And how attitudes have changed:

Information has never been so free. Even in authoritarian countries, information networks are helping people discover new facts and making governments more accountable…Hillary Clinton, January 2010

Governments insist on being able to monitor, read and store just about every type of information and communication relating to its citizens: emails, mobile phone calls, messages, bank details and even which websites people have visited.

Governments regularly ‘leak’ sensitive documents themselves for political gain as part of their strategy of deception.

But when the boot is on the other foot, suddenly people are being branded as terrorists, students are being advised not to even comment about WikiLeaks on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as it will affect their future employment prospects, and companies, such as Amazon, PayPal and eBay are ‘suddenly’ discovering that WikiLeaks are in violation of the terms of service.

No pressure there then.

There are obviously ‘moral’ boundaries which should come into play with regard to information being made public, such as whether it endangers human life being a primary example, although whether this is currently the case is probably debatable and remains to be seen.

On the broader front, the revelations certainly seem to show just how much effort governments put into deceiving the electorate, the very people they are supposed to be serving, as has been seen with the cables relating to Iraq, Afghanistan and the banking crises.

In an ideal world, if governments were to be more accountable (fat chance), open (even fatter chance), honest (rofl) and less self-motivated and obsessed, perhaps such situations would not occur.

But we live in a far from ideal world.

One of the great trends at the moment is ‘cloud computing’, which basically means that all your information, of every kind, is not stored on your own computer but on third party servers, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon or whoever.

With governments willing and obviously able to exert pressure for information to be released, is this the ideal way forward? Just a thought. If, as is the case with probably the vast majority of people, you have nothing to hide, then maybe it is not a problem.

It might actually encourage people to be a little more careful as to what they say or publish, which can only be a good thing.

Opinions are obviously going to vary as to whether, in this case, WikiLeaks is a good thing or a bad thing, whether its founder is a hero or terrorist, whether boundaries are being overstepped or not.

One thing is certain, though. If a government or any other agency or individual believes he has a God-given right to invade the privacy of another, hack into, read and store, for example, his emails, phone calls or private files, that government, agency or individual has no right to complain if the favour is returned.

So, WikiLeaks, hero or villain?

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