Zeynep Tufekci has an OpEd in the New York Times that expands on her previous writing about the dangers of massive uncurated data dumps such as those on WikiLeaks. When others were heaping praise on WikiLeaks, Zeynep was raising concerns for the safety of individuals whose private information had been included in dumps and who were now put at risk. Her OpEd this week is well worth reading and thinking about.
Here’s part of her column, written in the wake of the Podesta email dumps:
Demanding transparency from the powerful is not a right to see every single private email anyone in a position of power ever sent or received. WikiLeaks, for example, gleefully tweeted to its millions of followers that a Clinton Foundation employee had attempted suicide; news outlets repeated the report.
Wanton destruction of the personal privacy of any person who has ever come near a political organization is a vicious but effective means to smother dissent. This method is so common in Russia and the former Soviet states that it has a name: “kompromat,” releasing compromising material against political opponents. Emails of dissidents are hacked, their houses bugged, the activities in their bedrooms videotaped, and the material made public to embarrass and intimidate people whose politics displeases the powerful. Kompromat does not have to go after every single dissident to work: If you know that getting near politics means that your personal privacy may be destroyed, you will understandably stay away.
Data dumps by WikiLeaks have outed rape victims and gay people in Saudi Arabia, private citizens’ emails and personal information in Turkey, and the voice mail messages of Democratic National Committee staff members. Dissent requires the right to privacy: to be let alone in our vulnerabilities and the ability to form our thoughts and share them when we choose. These hacks undermine that crucial right.
Read it all on the New York Times.