Accessing Secrets

Wired has a nice article up on the controversy surrounding Wikileaks, a site for posting classified information.  This site perfectly illustrates some of the ethical dillemas inherant in a profession that deals entirely with the distribution of information.  Wikileaks has done some incredible things, releasing information on conditions in Guantanamo and actually affecting the results of Kenya’s national election.  However, the site doesn’t discriminate in the information it posts, and some of its releases such as social security numbers cross the line.

So, is this a site that should be promoted or not?  I’m very curious what people think.

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2 Comments on “Accessing Secrets”

  1. thedonofpages Says:

    Suppose a hacker got the information on your library’s servers. Patron records, their account passwords and library card info, mailing addresses, social security numbers, and holds. Throw in all the staff’s information as well, including electronic transfer information for wages. Add all internal Emails, Purchase Order numbers to be issued and account balances. A library that had all such information constantly posted wouldn’t last long before the vultures picked it clean.
    Just because the Vigilantes rid us of some crooks doesn’t mean we should abandon law and order. The false assumption is that only the secrets of others should be revealed, and not us. That contradicts the idea that the same law applies to us all.

  2. geekylibrarian Says:

    thedonofpages: I think your comments are incredibly relevant to the issues at hand with such a site, and agree completely that it would be hypocritical to believe that only our own secrets should be safe.

    However, I would argue that there is some value to be gained out of certain pieces of information seeing the light of day (the Guantanamo example again). The problem being that there is no real way to control this flow of information of course.

    On a random but somewhat related note I think there’s a certain similarity between the role of librarians as distributors of information and the hacker creed of “information wants to be free”. I’m going to be annoying and straddle the fence on the issue but I think it’s a valuable conversation that has not occurred fully in the profession as of yet.


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