On Friday, the publishing platform WikiLeaks posted 19,252 searchable emails, including 8,034 attachments, from inside the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks says that the emails are from the accounts of seven top DNC officials from the period between January 2015 and May 2016. They are part of WikiLeaks’ “Hillary Leaks” initiative.
The emails contain interesting and potentially important political information, but they also include data that is sensitive in a different way. As Gizmodo points out, the data trove is easily searchable for personal information like credit card numbers, birthdays, and even Social Security numbers.
As a group that advocates for radical transparency, WikiLeaks’ releases are often at odds with personal privacy. The organization is frequently accused of doing more damage than good with its leaks, as in the2010 diplomatic cable release and the Afghan war documents leak. In both cases, politicians and government agencies said that WikiLeaks had put people’s lives at risk, including military personnel, human rights activists, informants, and journalists.
It’s unclear whether this assertion was true and it’s difficult to assess definitively. The situation is controversial because it’s easy to say from an ideological standpoint that holding powerful entities accountable is worth exposing a few people to credit card fraud or identity theft. Of course, you might not see things that way if your social security number were available online right now.