WikiLeaks firmly believes in radical transparency, the idea that the world would be better if there were no secrets. That level of transparency can be used for good, like the time the site published a video called “Collateral Murder” showing innocent journalists shot to oblivion by US troops in 2010. But not always.
The organisation has also used that tradition of transparency for less just causes, like today when the site published 19,252 emails from top US Democratic National Committee members, many of which included personal information about innocent donors including credit card, social security numbers, and passport numbers.
If you visit the WikiLeaks DNC emails website, you can browse the emails using a simple boolean search. Typing a word like “contribution” will actually turn up hundreds of results. The emails include unencrypted, plain-text listings of donor emails addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, passport numbers, and credit card information. WikiLeaks proudly announced the data dump in a single tweet.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) July 22, 2016
The new leak is part of the organisations ongoing Hillary Leaks series, which launched in March as a searchable archive of more than 30,000 emails and attachments sent to and from Clinton’s private email server, while she was Secretary of State. The original email dump included documents from June 2010 to August 2014. The new release includes emails from January 2015 to May 2016.
This isn’t the first time WikiLeaks has recklessly published personal information of innocent civilians, either. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission have previously requested that WikiLeaks remove names of Afghan civilians in 77,000 classified military documents published online. The civilians were (ironically) collateral damage in the same leak that spurred the “Collateral Murder” video obtained by Wikileaks.
Exactly why Wikileaks decided not to redact the private information of unsuspecting Americans remains unclear. We’ve reached out for comment and will update as soon as we hear back.