WikiLeaks is the first real change in journalism in the web age. Newspapers and tv news going online in web and streaming formats were simply the old media moved into the new medium. The practice of adding the entire interview to a show’s website after the edited version has aired has been, perhaps, a small step in the same direction as WikiLinks has gone. But WikiLeaks making public the Afghan War Diaries in cooperation with The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel is a radical change in journalism. Instead of simply a report, now journalists and readers have access to the raw material, the reports from the frontline. This level of access is, in my opinion, as radically new as the introduction of Wikipedia was.
A completely different, but I think, linked matter is how documents are “shared”. I recently chose a cheap and immediate download over the slightly more expensive but longer-wait book (or what the free information a Google search would find).
(By-the-way, the ‘book’ is very well written and beautifully designed, and, in my opinion, worth the money going to the author.) However, I did wonder what would happen to the pdf in the machine of somebody less ethical than me. Would they simply give it away? What the author has done to slow that down, if not block it, is to put my name and email address on every single page:
Instead of her name, she’s added my name; the recipient gets their ID added. This is an obvious and probably simple-to-remove tactic. However, it is a step on a path.
How does this connect with the WikiLinks story? Well, stamping a document “Top Secret” is obviously no longer effective. But with almost everything travelling by email, how long will it be before a (probably hidden) digital ID of the recipient be added to every file? This wouldn’t be a digital lock; just a digital identification of the recipient. Which will make tracing the paths files travel really clear, and passing information on to something like WikiLeaks even less safe.
Or have I been reading too many spy stories this summer. I recommend http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Spook-Country-GIBSON-WILLIAM/9780399154300-item.html