Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

The single biggest "success" of the whole leaks thing has been to help put Trump in office, which shows three things.

First, it's ridiculously easy for powerful and dubious players (example here Russian intelligence, not Trump) to twist this well-meaning idea into a horrible parody of itself.

Second, the most vulnerable to manipulation from this technique are democracies (and to a much lesser extent) public corporations, who I would argue, are less of a problem than either autocracies or super-rich individuals. You can't embarrass Putin out of office no matter what gets leaked. Anyone who tries to use it against him will fall out of a window and it will be forgotten. Nor can you easily make the Koch brothers behave, even if an award winning journalist writes a best-selling and award winning book about their shenanigans https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radic...). You'd pretty much have to leak photos of them holding severed heads to get the US government to move against them effectively.

Third. Often, it's politically dangerous for a leader to do the 'right thing'. This technique is just as useful to prevent someone from doing the right thing as it is to prevent them from doing the wrong thing. The difference is how controversial the action is, not whether it is right or wrong.

So, regardless of whether this can be done securely, it's really important to ask yourself how it is likely to be used, by whom, and to what end. People tend to forget that stuff when they have a cool new technology.




Aren't the biggest recent successes of whistleblowing websites the publication of the the Pentagon papers, HBGary Federal leaks, embassy cables, collateral damage material/videos and US global surveillance program? To my knowledge, whistleblowing had very little to nothing to do with the recent election.

Information manipulation is one of the core functions of the CIA, Russian Intelligence, etc. Whistleblowing agencies do not seek to solve CIA information manipulation - only provide an outlet for the publication of contradictory material. In other words: these systems publish information - they are not golden bullets. They do not protect you entirely from the CIA. They aren't intended to. Don't let perfect the enemy of good.

Regarding the third point: it's often very easy for a leader to do the easy thing instead of the right thing.

Agree wholeheartedly that a person needs to be careful about how information is used, by whom, and to what end. I think that more than equally applies to Western intelligence and national security agencies.


So many down-votes, so few coherent arguments. :)

Maybe somebody can show me why I'm wrong in stating that democracies are asymmetrically more vulnerable, or that this can be used as readily by bad actors for bad ends as it can by well-intentioned people for good ends.


I suggest to remove the first sentence that is just a distraction from the later points that you make, especially without some further elaboration.

If we can create some technology, then dismissing it because it can be used to do bad things seems futile. Bad actors will create and use it anyway[1]. If you want to protect some secrets then have a decent security protocols in place, network of trusted people, slightly different data encrypted with different public keys and so on.

I don't think government intelligence needs projects like this to do what they want to do.

I doubt you are trying to argue not to have knifes because they kill people. You work at Google so I think your context may come from the fact that you can easily put things that make a lot of sense after considering them carefully in a bad light when presenting them to public without enough context. But you can do that based on any information, not necessarily private.

In general, in politics, data doesn't seem to matter all that much, unfortunately. We don't have democracy. We have some media-cracy. Majority of voters opinions are heavily influenced by the media. So it's them who actually make decisions (or whoever controls them).

That's why Snowden for example, probably had much more influence on people who already thought about those things, than it had on general public.

1. bioweapons come to mind and those are indeed scary as our current defense is pretty much what I'm considering to be futile


I didn't down-vote but pretty good counter arguements is there really is no evidence that Russia was actually behind the leaks other than the CIA and the department of homeland security said so. Seeing as these are the same organizations that lied to us time and time again, like lying about the cause of Benghazi, I'm not inclined to believe anything they say without evidence. These people are known liars and pretty much everything they say is a politically motivated manipulation.

Sure Russia could be behind the DNC leak, but so could a 14 year old who guessed that podesta's password was password (if you believe Julian Assange's claims which haven't been denied by the DNC). It could also be a disgruntled Democratic party staffer who saw what Hillary and Podesta were like behind the scenes and said "fuck these people, the public needs to know what they're really like"

Second, why is it a bad thing that Hillary's email was leaked? It gave an insight into how corrupt the Democratic party is and how corrupt our politicians are and how the democratic process is being rigged. This is a lady who ran a private email server as secretary of state. I'm happy that we were able to find out how the Democratic party rigged the campaign against Sanders and worked a little too closely with the media to ensure a Hillary victory. I'm also glad we found out the real reason for the attacks on Libya (gold reserves not protection of people).

Sure it had a bad result for Trump opponents who didn't want Trump to win. But imagine it was not Trump but Obama running against Hillary and the emails had been leaked. I'm sure you and everyone else would be saying that it was a great moment for democracy instead of regarding it as a terrible mockery.


You can change all the names, but all of the criticisms remain valid. It's super-easy to game an anonymous "leak" distribution platform, in particular if you're an intelligence agency. That alone should give people pause, but it doesn't.


Do you have a better idea?

This is an iterative process. Yes, GlobaLeaks could be used to spread fake leaks, but then it will force all democratic processes to be more transparent, in order to efficiently prove or disprove leak L or new N.

How fast we can prove a piece of fact is the next step, but to get there, you have to give people the tools to spread information (true and fake) as much as possible, imho

Edit : Also, this initiative is European. If you don't trust your own intelligence services, stop whining about it and come live in Europe?


An intelligence agency can already leak stuff to the press while remaining largely anonymous, this doesn't improve their situation nearly as much as an actual whistleblower.


who was the whistle-blower in the Hillary emails?

Someone else gave the Pentagon papers as an example of a "good leak" and it was. But I think good leaks tend to be those, like the pentagon papers that are handled by responsible organizations (NY Times and Wash. Post in that case). The people who created this code may be just such people, but there's no reason to think someone who does git-clone on this repo is.

By the way, both the Post and the Times openly solicit leaks.


You're missing the point. If you assume some intelligence agency was behind the Clinton email leak, they could have anonymously leaked them to a range of press outlets and generated the same result. Meanwhile, Ellsberg had to work incredibly hard to prevent being caught before the Pentagon Papers went public. A site like this makes Ellsberg's life easier, while making no difference to the intelligence agency.

The method of leaking has little to do with the value of the leak, someone will print almost anything. The Times and the Post regularly print items intentionally leaked for propaganda purposes, the classic example is the buildup to the Iraq War.


I suppose you were too cynical to actually deliver your [fair] points, which rarely is an effective or respectful way to convey ideas.


I didn't downvote you, but I can see a reason for downvotes others than your arguments.

Maybe this post is not seen as relevant starting point of the discussion you wanted to have.


It's only irrelevant if you think it's reasonable discuss/promote technologies while only considering their technical merits and the "pros" for their use. I don't think that anyone can legitimately make that argument.


All three of your points are about the dangers of a free press, not anything specific to online leaks.




Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: