Social media privacy largely has become an oxymoron, but Wikileaks’ Cablegate has expanded the definition of social media to any conversation anywhere, making the very idea of secrets a moronic expectation. Wikileaks calls its actions ethical because the classified and confidential cables amongst 274 embassies around the world reveal two-faced double-dealing and out-right lying. In its justifications the organization says:
“The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.”
So Wikileaks is claiming that exposing these secrets will expose the truth about the way nations play deadly games. These cables, Wikileaks argues, would just be embarrassing little facts and not a worldwide diplomatic crisis if only diplomacy involved integrity. Public and private punches/pleas/promises should match up.
However, much of the media attention since the story broke has been on …
1) those embarrassing private comments, such as calling dictator Kim Jong Il a “flabby old chap.”
2) how just about nobody is fond of Iran or North Korea, even their neighbors and allies.
4) whether the information should have been leaked in the first place because lives could be placed in danger.
Even the king of secret sources Bob Woodward says the information offered may do more harm than good. Sarah Palin of course blames Barak Obama for not stopping the leaks and calls the leaker(s) un-American. It’s safe to say she doesn’t think Wikileaks is ethical. But Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman points out that all the Republican Congress members complaining about those leaks are sure to have read the cables before meeting with the president this week. The New York Times argues that the latest round of Wikileaks cables shows the competence and savvy of U.S. diplomats, rather than their failures.
The contradictions of voices complaining about Wikileaks are dizzying and the distance between intent and result appears far and wide.
Negotiating diplomats should be allowed to have private conversations … unless of course they are misrepresenting their true interests. Whistleblowers should be protected when they expose these lies … unless greater harm is caused than whatever greater good was originally sought. The internet and social networks should be free and unfettered … until one person’s freedom hampers another’s.
Certainly eventually someone will be prosecuted somewhere about these leaks, and whether justice can be served by law will be challenged.
The ethical questions raised here about safety, privacy, and secrets are not new. What Wikileaks has changed is the validity of expectations in all arenas: political and personal. Whispers simply no longer exist.