Media coverage of the recent controversies surrounding Wikileaks, its founder Julian Assange, and its contributors and supporters has shone a limelight on key issues ininformation technology security, access rights, and ethical use of sensitiveinformation.
Wikileaks, founded in 2006, claims to have been founded by "Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and start-up company technologists, from the US,Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa" with the purported mission to serve the"people's right to know". It exercises this right to freedom of information by disclosingcables, documents, and other sensitive information, usually regarding agovernmental body, corporation, or other institution, leaked to it by anonymoussources via publication on its website (Wikipedia, 2011). Documents leaked byWikileaks in the past include important risk information about Iceland¶s KaupthingBank which led to legal reform in the freedom of information and the press (Vallance,2010). It was also responsible for publishing videos showing indiscriminate assaultson Iraqi civilians by US Air Force helicopters which resulted in the killing of twoReuters employees and the injuring of two small children. While he is often describedas the founder, Julian Assange has served as Wikileaks' primary spokesperson andpublic relations figure, a task for which he is often the face of the organisation amidstcontroversy.
In its code of ethics for IT professionals The Australian Computer Societyemphasisesthe ³primacy of the public interest´ and such interests should be placed above"personal, business, or sectional interests" (ACS, 2011). This view is shared in boththe British Computer Society¶s code of conduct (BCS, 2011), and America¶s Association for Computing Machinery (ACM, 2011).It is reasonable to assume Wikileaks is not out for the personal gain (financial or otherwise) of its staff and contributors in conducting its activities and there is noevidence of it exploiting the information it receives to further personal, business, or sectional causes. However, where the matter of public interest weighs in heavily onWikileaks is accountability for information it releases to the public.The Australian Journalists Association notes in its code of ethics that journalists³should be accountable (for what they publish)´ and that ³accountability engenderstrust (and without which) journalists do not fulfil their public responsibilities´ (ANC,2011). As a media organisation, it is reasonable to attribute a similar ethical code toWikileaks, however it has been observed that ³Wikileaks as an organisation, and Mr Assange as its editor-in-chief, seem to believe they have no responsibility for theconsequences of their acts´ and ³simply make available, without due care, whatever is sent«´ (Hamilton, 2011). This disregard for accountability also contravenes theBritish Computer Society¶s code of conduct, which requires professionals to ³carryout work or study with due care and diligence in accordance with the relevantauthority's requirements, and the interests of system users´, the system users inWikileaks¶ case being members of the general public viewing its content (BCS,2011). While some content released by Wikileaks carries grave concern for nationalinterests, most does not. There are many instances where information is releasednot with ³the clear purpose « to expose any wrongdoing or grave dangers, butinstead to merely embarrass government officials and complicate diplomacy´(Radford, 2010). While Wikileaks strives for the praiseworthy goal of transparency