Thursday, 3rd May 2007
Tim Buckley Owen
Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa have got together to develop a whistleblower’s equivalent of Wikipedia. Described as an ‘uncensorable version of Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis’, Wikileaks (http://wikileaks.org) claims to combine ‘the protection and anonymity of cutting-edge cryptographic technologies with the transparency and simplicity of a wiki interface’.
Although primarily designed to liberate documents suppressed by governments, it clearly has corporate whistleblowers in its sights as well. ‘Wikileaks will be the outlet for every government official, every bureaucrat, every corporate worker, who becomes privy to embarrassing information which the institution wants to hide but the public needs to know,’ the developers claim.
When it finally goes live, anybody will be able to post to Wikileaks and edit existing entries. No technical knowledge will be required (the Wikileaks technology including modified versions of FreeNet, Tor, PGP and software specially designed by project participants) and leakers will be able to post ‘anonymously and untraceably’. Thereafter others will be able to comment on the leaked documents and assess their credibility.
Perhaps understandably, none of the participants is named, but they claim that there are currently 22 people directly involved, with an advisory board that is said to include reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers.
Currently the people behind Wikileaks are working on the assumption that any politically motivated legal attack on them would most likely come from a non-western authoritarian regimes and would be seen as a ‘grave error’ in western administrations. They believe they are prepared, structurally and technically, to deal with legal attacks but, ‘in the very unlikely event that we were to face coercion to make the software censorship friendly, there are many others who will continue the work in other jurisdictions’.
They also say that they uphold ethical behaviour in all circumstances, and that it will be for individual whistleblowers to be the ultimate arbiters of justice in their own consciences.
With a claimed library of over 1.2 million documents so far, Wikileaks has developed a successful prototype but does not yet apparently have the scale for a full public deployment and is calling for more funding and support. The developers originally had an estimated start date of February or March 2007, although that does seem to have slipped.
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