What WikiLeaks Is Telling Us

Mar 15, 2017

It has now been one week since WikiLeaks unloaded thousands of secret CIA documents on the Internet. These documents, which appear to be authentic, explain in excruciating detail the techniques and technologies that the agency has at its disposal for opening up and looking inside virtually any digital device.

So what can we learn from this data-dump? What are its teachable moments? I see at least three things:

First, if we did not know it before, we do now. Privacy online is myth. And all those sophisticated tools that have been made available to help us protect ourselves and our digital data are apparently placebos at best. This is something hackers have been telling us for decades. If you truly want to keep something private, the only recourse seems to be complete disconnection.

Second, Wikileaks does not choose sides; it is an equal opportunity whistle blower. And no one knows this better than President Trump. During the campaign, candidate Trump loved Wikileaks, and he was quick to sing its praises. But now, after this unloading of secret government documents, the Trump administration is trying to sing another tune altogether.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, the reactions to this event tell us something about our own values and commitment to transparency: If “democratic governments” can only be preserved and protected through secret operations hidden from the very people who are the source of its power and legitimacy, then it might not be democracy that we really want.

I’m David Gunkel, and that’s my perspective.