Leaking Like a Sieve

Thu, Dec 02

In this session we'll consider whistleblowing and its relationship to computer technology. Though we've heard quite a bit about whistleblowing in the context of computer security in the past decade, it isn't a new phenomenon, nor is it tied to technology. That said, computer networks have made it easier to retrieve and leak material that is not meant for public consumption. Governments, corporations, and even individuals have been targeted by leaks. In some cases, the leaks have revealed grave injustices, crimes, and other missteps, leading to constructive reform. In other cases, the leaks have been petty and retributive in nature, not in the public interest. We'll learn about the rare instances when it might be OK to blow the whistle, while considering the many problems associated with leaks. 

We have three main in-class learning goals. By the end of lecture today you will:

  1. Learn about the recent history of whistleblowing in the United States. 
  2. Be able to discern when leaking may be ethical, and how to execute it in the most secure way possible (while absorbing a huge amount of risk!). 
  3. Understand the other side of the equation, where security measures need to be put into place to thwart leaking (especially unethical disclosures). 

The slides for today's lecture are available here.

Read This:

Sissela Bok writing on The Morality of Whistle-Blowing

Kim Zetter reports in Wired on a Boeing Employee Who Was Fired for Discussing Computer Security Problems at the Company 

Steve Fishman's remarkable portrait of Chelsea Manning and Adrian Lamo in New York Magazine

Kerry Howley introduces the world to eccentric leaker Reality Winner in New York Magazine

John Cassidy explains why he believes Edward Snowden is a Hero in the New Yorker

Douglas London explains in The Hill why he believes Edward Snowden Should Not be Pardoned 


Here are a couple of optional readings and a podcast that further develop the above whistleblowing cases:

Computer security faults put Boeing at risk

The Moral Complexities of Working with Julian Assange

Submit documents to WikiLeaks

Do This:

Writing Reflection 10

See the instructions posted on the assignment's page

This writing reflection is due on 12/4 at noon.

This Week's Dialogue Group Meeting

Find at least one hour to meet with your group to discuss the prompt of the week: Why does contemporary society seemingly disregard data privacy?

Schedule your group meeting for next week. Why is the technology world still struggling with security vulnerabilities in 2021?

Watch This: