At the current time in the evolution of the internet an ethical dilemma is faced. The internet has provided the avenue to not only allow individual nodes to network and speak their minds but to share information freely to all nodes (Benkler 2011). Hacking figureheads such as Julian Assange and Edward Snowden highlight the possibilities and consequences of the cyberliterarian value that is information freedom (Khatchadourian 2010; Sterling 2013). There is the capability to spread information freely but is this at the expense of privacy and security?
Andrew Morse and Ian Sheer (2011), authors at the Wall Street Journal, label hackers as a “serious annoyance and even a threat in their own right”. Although, given that the Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp who had their own systems hacked earlier that year, these views may present more than a little bias.
This opposes the view of Bruce Sterling (2013), a pioneer of cyberpunk, who sees hackers such as Julian Assange (below right) and Edward Snowden (below left, held up by Assange) as “fantastic figures” who “have the initiative in a world afflicted with comprehensive helplessness”.
Internet sites such as WikiLeaks are viewed by some as an “instrument for good in societies where laws are unjust” (Khatchadourian 2010). Democratic governments such as in Australia, remain transparent within reason. In most cases, the secrets are held largely to protect legitimate policy (Khatchadourian 2010). However, those operating under the cyberlibertarian view believe that the public has a right and need for information freedom (Shirky 2008). Hence, there is a struggle for hackers such as Assange who feel that in the reality it is the individual versus the institution (Khatchadourian 2010).
The ethical dilemma of whether global citizens have the right to transparency or whether organisations and governments have the right to security is a sticky one which is likely to remain such for a long time to come.
Benkler, Y 2011, ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review, pp. 1-33, viewed 10 October 2014, <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/245677/mod_resource/content/2/Benkler%2C%20Y.%20-%20A%20free%20irresponsible%20press.pdf>.
Khatchadourian, R 2010, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, New Yorker, 7 June, viewed 10 October 2014, <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/no-secrets>.
Shirky, C 2008, Here comes everybody, Penguin Group, London.
Sterling, B 2013, The Ecuadorian library or, the blast shack after three years, Medium, weblog post, 2 August, viewed 10 October 2014, <https://medium.com/@bruces/the-ecuadorian-library-a1ebd2b4a0e5>.