Data Leaks And Whistleblowers
The release of sensitive information to the public, by individuals who are sometimes called whistleblowers and dubbed traitors or heroes, is termed to be ‘data leak’. The most notable data leaks in the world include the ‘US cable leak’, which was facilitated by Wikileaks, an Iceland-based news organization owned by Julian Assange. The US cable leak showed the inner workings of US diplomacy. The leaked cables revealed key discussions held between the United States and some of its allies and the frank opinion of high ranked US members on global issues.
Another notable data leak is the ‘NSA files leak’, which is the biggest leak of government secrets in world history. However, what makes it notable are the shocking revelations made by the files leaked by former NSA programming contractor, Edward Snowden. The leaked files revealed that the NSA extensively tapped into the communication systems of American citizens and made use of court orders to coerce network providers to turn in call, messaging and browsing data of its users. The NSA files also showed that the US spied on United Nations’ heads-of-states by sometimes gaining unauthorized access to their phones. The leak of the NSA files put the US government in hot water and they were hard-pressed to find a satisfactory explanation for their espionage on supposedly key allies.
The ‘Panama Papers’ is another notable leak in world history – dubbed Panama papers because the leaked files come from a Panamanian law firm. The Panama Papers are a collection of an outstanding 11.5 million files leaked from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The Panama Papers reveals the tax evading practices of the rich, who create offshore companies in tax havens around the world.
Twelve national leaders, their families and close associates from around the world were revealed to have been using offshore tax havens. Most notable among these leaders are Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine; Russian president, Vladimir Putin who is connected to the Panama Papers through his best friend, Sergei Roldugin; British Prime Minister, David Cameron is tied to an offshore wealth through his father, Ian Cameron; and Pakistan Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, although, his three children own the offshore companies associated to him.
The data leaks of the past years have shown increased use of the internet to police governments. We are set to see more data leaks in the future, perhaps larger than the likes of Panama Papers, even in areas such as the Middle East and Pakistan, where freedom of information access is restricted and the media is muzzled. Recent data leaks are encouraging a future in which citizens of the Middle East and Pakistan carry out fact-finding hacks related to suspected shady companies and personalities through the web.
The popularization of browsing tools that ensure anonymity has increased the possibility that more people will use the internet to access and share restricted information in the Middle East and Pakistan. We are also poised to see people going to the media with information on the shady activities of the government, because recent data leaks have increased the popularity of encrypted messages and internet-cloaking tools as tools instrumental in leaking information to the media anonymously.
News organizations in the Middle East and Pakistan are set to borrow a leaf from media companies that have facilitated leaks in the past. These media organizations were able to receive leaked files, communicate with whistle blowers, and hide these activities from the government using internet cloaking tools and encrypted messages.
If there is anything data leaks do so well, it is shocking citizens into becoming vigilantes, and the citizens of Middle East and Pakistan are slowly but surely becoming vigilantes who can display courage by using tools at their disposal in accessing undiluted information, investigating and making their voices heard on the web space.
An earlier version of this article appeared on infosecurity-magazine.com
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