When the Continental Congress enacted the first protection law in the United States on July 30, 1778, they would have never imagined how the power of whistleblowers, in a world driven by bits and fiber, can change the way we live, act and even think. When a british scientist was working at the CERN on a system to access documents and files in an easier way, no one would have ever thought about the implications that this tool, which Tim Berners-Lee was creating, would have introduced.
The World Wide Web has changed everything. In the past twenty years, we have seen startups creating billion dollar businesses, even without making any money, and we have also seen companies collapsing in bubbles. However what that simple project, hosted on a Next computer, brought was a way to keep people connected and share knowledge in places where books can’t even be printed. In this world, whistleblowers have changed everything and Wikileaks has led the revolution in publishing what simple and humble people thought the world had to know.
Edward Snowden, who spoke at SXSW through a Google Hangout, is the whistleblower who has had the biggest media coverage ever, which seems impressive, considering the fact that he has released only 10% of the material he owns. During the interview at SXSW, Snowden has covered different topics, but what we were interested in is why he did it. As he recalls, he would do it all over again because the US has violated the constitution on a “mass scale”.
As he has said:
These things are improving national security, these are improving the communications not just of Americans, but everyone in the world.
These things aren’t just improving communications, they are forcing us to believe that whenever we type, speak or read, there is someone that is constantly tracing what we do. What Snowden has brought in front of millions of people is not just a simple leak, but something that will affect international diplomacy for the next fifty years. That’s why products such as Telegram, Tor, Ansa or even Secret find a market.
Whistleblowers should leak data whenever there is an actual violation of people’s rights and a violation, as Snowden calls them, of the constitution, which is the only thing that keep a country united. If what we believe in, our rights, our duties and the main infrastructure of a modern democracy are violated, people have the right to know.
As Snowden says:
The public has benefited, the government has benefited, and every society in the world has benefited.
It’s true that society has benefited, the only person who hasn’t benefited from this leak is him. For this reason, we wonder if Snowden is just one of the thousands of people that seek attention and if he’s actually benefiting from this. In 2014, there should be a way to keep whistleblowers’ identity secret from the public and governments. That’s what Wikileaks tried to create, a way to get the information without even knowing who was giving them the files.
Why did Snowden show his real identity? Are we in front of someone who wanted to be called hero for the rest of his days? No, the data, that Snowden has released, was way ahead of how we thought the world was working. For this reason, Snowden’s identity needed to be real and people had to know who was behind this.
It takes a huge sacrifice to change the life of millions of people. Snowden could have decided to keep his identity secret without even thinking of moving to another country; but in front of files like that, someone had to stand and start a revolution that will change everything. We think that by showing his identity, Snowden might have also given the courage to other people to do what he did; not for fame, but for the community.
Now that the “revolution” has a face, people won’t need to release their identity. There is no need to put our own lives at risk. Organisations such as Wikileaks, are here to help us share data anonymously, without the need to risk something. That’s why Wikileaks is successful. If we can keep whistleblowers safe and still receive information, it will much better for them and us.
The world doesn’t need heroes who are willing to sacrifice their lives for the “truth”. What we ask for is “truth” and it doesn’t need a name or a face, as long as the files are real, the truth will come just by reading and spreading them. What we need now is a network of lawyers, people and volunteers who can protect those who want to stand against governments that don’t respect our freedom.
Our thoughts go to Bradley Manning.