When WikiLeaks first started publishing secret government documents, it asked journalists to filter out information that could harm innocent civilians. "We have a harm minimization policy," founder Julian Assange said in Oxford, England, in July 2010. "There are legitimate secrets. Your records with your doctor, that's a legitimate secret." A month later, he was abandoning that policy as too expensive and time-consuming, and in the past few months, WikiLeaks has published medical and detailed sensitive information on hundreds of rape survivors, ill children, gay Saudi men, and other private citizens, The Associated Press said Tuesday.
Some information, like the disclosure of dozens of Social Security and credit card numbers in the Democratic National Committee leaks, mostly put people at risk of identity theft and other crimes, as do the more than 500 passport, academic, employment, and identity files in a cache of Saudi documents. In other cases, the information can ruin lives or even endanger people, like the leaked Saudi cables that identify tortured or raped domestic workers, and teenage boys and men raped or detained for "sexual deviation." In Saudi Arabia, homosexuality can be punishable by death, AP notes.
Identifying rape victims and those accused of being gay is "legitimizing their surveillance, not combating it," and it puts them at risk of oppression by zealous officials, LGBT activist Scott Long tells AP. Paul Dietrich, a transparency activist, says he is not impressed by WikiLeak's turn toward indiscriminate dumps. "One of the labels that they really don't like is being called 'anti-privacy activists,'" he told AP. "But if you want to live down that label, don't do stuff like this!" You can read more at AP.