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Monday, March 3, 2008

The Problem With Wikileaks

The website Wikileaks allows would-be whisteblowers to post information anonymously. This has allowed certain corporate and government secrets to be revealed.

The Swiss bank Julius Baer caters to wealthy clients. Someone published bank records to Wikileaks. The poster claimed the records exposed evidence of money laundering. Julius Baer simultaneously claimed that it was confidential information *AND* that it contained extensive errors.

The Swiss bank Julius Baer successfully got a court order. Wikileaks was shut down. They did it perversely, by ordering the domain registrar to revoke the registration. You could still access Wikileaks directly if you knew its IP address. Of course, Wikileaks is mirrored in many locations.

The problem is that Wikileaks protects the anonymity of posters. If the source of the records was a Julius Baer employee, then the bank has a valid claim against whoever published the records.

If Wikileaks protects the anonymity of posters, then Wikileaks *SHOULD* be liable if harmful information is posted.

If you're going to be distributing sensitive information anonymously online, you should use an anonymous P2P network. If you have a centralized database, then the database owner can be held liable if there's a problem.

That's the biggest problem with Wikipedia. Site admins wield a lot of power over the site, yet they're anonymous. Original Wiki engines displayed the IP address of *EVERY* edit, even for registered users. The bad guys manipulated Wikipedia for their own benefit. The bad guys successfully lobbied Wikipedia to allow registered users to post anonymously.

99.9% of the abuses with Wikipedia would vanish *IF* the IP address of *EVERY* edit were displayed. Contributors and admins are completely anonymous. This undermines Wikipedia's credibility.

Wikipedia is private property, so the site admins can do as the please as long as they don't hurt anyone. Many people predict that a competing website will rise to prominence soon. None has emerged yet, but there are promising candidates. A *LOT* of skilled writers left Wikipedia in frustration. I refuse to contribute to Wikipedia or link to it. A lot of them probably have turned to blogging instead.

Blogging is different, because I'm not editing the contributions of others (except for reader comments). I'm not aggregating the volunteer work of thousands of people. If you don't like my blog, you can easily form your own blog. Eventually, someone will create an online encyclopedia that doesn't suck. Google's Knol project is the most promising one I've read about.

3 comments:

WikiLeak blog said...

99.9% of the abuses with Wikipedia would vanish *IF* the IP address of *EVERY* edit were displayed. Contributors and admins are completely anonymous. This undermines Wikipedia's credibility.

That would not help very much.

Wikipedia already censors Tor users, and there are plenty of other ways to hide your real IP address.

Robert said...

Ok, so I didn't know where to leave this comment, so I left it on the top post of your site. I acknowledge that your hypothesis regarding banking and world finance is probably correct. My problem is this - if the problem is so intellectual, and the general populace is so dumb, what, if anything, can be done to counteract the status quo?

Anonymous said...

I would me more concerned with g00gle. You are a smart human, why would you blog here?
Here is an entity that, just by tracking cookies and ip addresses, simultaneously has access to:
1) All your passing thoughts (searches,blogs,mail,chat)
2) 90% of sites you visit (g00gleanalytics)
3) All the mail you send and receive (gmail)
4) Everyone you know (gmail, social networks, groups,chat)
5) Your address and addresses of everywhere you go (maps,carts,etc)

They keep the information FOREVER. Who knows what red hands it will wind up in?

This list is far from complete.

I use scroogle to mask my IP address, and block all scripts from g00gle. I avoid it like the plague.

Given the content of your blog, I feel you owe it to yourself and us to blog somewhere else. Please?

Thanks for the good work.

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