WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency is a timely, thought-provoking new book from technology and politics analyst Micah Sifry. It tells the story of WikiLeaks in the context of the growing movement for transparency in politics and of the crowdsourcing activism that the Internet has made possible. With the effects of recent data leaks continuing to reverberate around the globe, Micah Sifry’s up-to-the-minute book, published this March, will provide a fascinating, thoughtful and eye-opening guide to this new age of transparency.
Below is a short excerpt from the book’s Introduction. To to read a longer excerpt, visit the Huffington Post website:
An old way of doing things is dying; a new one is being born. And we need more midwives.
What is new is our ability to individually and together connect with greater ease than at any time in human history. As a result, information flows more freely into the public arena, powered by seemingly unstoppable networks of people around the world cooperating to share vital data and prevent its suppression. Old institutions and incumbent powers are inexorably coming to terms with this new reality. The “Age of Transparency” is here: not because one transnational online network dedicated to open information and whistle-blowing named WikiLeaks exists, but because the knowledge of how to build and maintain such networks is now widespread.
It both helps and hurts that we are living in a time of radical uncertainty about the “official” version of the truth. All kinds of “authoritative” claims made by leading public figures in recent years have turned out to be little more than thin air. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Deregulation of Wall Street didn’t make the financial marketplace more rational. The American housing market turned out to be built on sand. The extent of Federal Reserve subsidies to the financial sector during the 2008–09 market collapse turned out to be much larger than was originally disclosed. The dikes of New Orleans weren’t built to withstand a major hurricane. The Catholic Church child-molestation scandals turned out to be more widespread than church officials claimed. The oil wells in the Gulf weren’t safe as promised and ratified by government inspectors. (And the claim that no one imagined that any of these things could go wrong and no one tried to warn us in advance? Also false.) Even on smaller issues, the “authorities” often turn out to be the last to know what is actually going on, especially now that we all use the real-time web to share what we know as events unfold. Nothing less than absolute transparency for powerful actors seems to be the remedy to this state of affairs, the only way to restore trust in public institutions. And yet we also know we cannot eliminate all secrets nor live in a world where privacy and confidentiality no longer exist.