Privacy, Security, and Government Surveillance: Wikileaks and the New Accountability
Public Affairs Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 2, April 2011
16 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2012 Last revised: 6 Mar 2018
Date Written: April 1, 2011
This article considers the "new accountability" forced upon corporations and governments by information sharing sites like WikiLeaks. I argue that accessing and sharing sensitive information about individuals, corporations, and governments is – in the typical case – morally suspect. Nevertheless, the wrongness of cases like WikiLeaks is mitigated by two factors. First, in democratic societies we have a right to know much of the information published by these sharing sites – information that in many instances is unjustifiably withheld by governments. Second, this sort of sharing is forcing a realignment of power. For decades corporations and governments have been able to collect, store, and share information about ordinary citizens while walling off access to their own information. Sharing sites like WikiLeaks are changing this balance of power. And while it is the case that "two wrongs don’t make a right" – accessing, storing, and sharing information about citizens and accessing, storing, and sharing information about government activities – for this slogan to be true one has to acknowledge the first wrong.
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