Thursday, January 13, 2011

Going after Wikileaks causing more problems

The ancient Polynesians navigated the Pacific using the moon, stars and motion of the waves. As the ripples from the Wikileaks scandal travel around the planet I wonder if we can chart a course that brings us to greater privacy and security by seeing the way various governments, agencies and businesses react to them.

Last week we learned that the U.S. government tried to force Twitter to release user information on people who had been associated with Wikileaks. Wikileaks fought back, and has been widely praised for it. Wired's Threatlevel blog even stated that Twitter's response should be the industry standard when such requests are made.

As ripples move across the water they strike object and bounce back. In the Privacy Inc blog at CNET Declan McCullagh reports that a group of European politicians is protesting the U.S. subpoena of information from Twitter. Along with concerns that EU privacy rules may have be broken by the subpoena's, there is concern over the fact that one of the accounts subpoenaed belongs to a member of Iceland's national parliament. That does not please the government of Iceland, which summoned U.S. Ambassdor Luis Arreaga to a meeting at their foreign ministry.

Wikileaks did not steal the information it is releasing. By the governments own admission most of the data shouldn't have been classified, and nobody believes any of it is more than embarrassing. There was a similar case in the '70's that determined journalists releasing secrets were covered by the First Amendment. Is going after Wikileaks and Julian Assange worth causing international incidents? To have a trial that will probably go in Assange's favor?

Is this an attempt to catch and punish a wrongdoer or just to cover somebody's embarrassment?