Como ya expresé en WikiLeaks: imposible no darle vueltas este asunto es de los que no permiten opinar a la ligera.
Tras ver el documental Wikirebels y las palabras de apoyo de Lula da Silva (4 partes de vídeo y el del expresidente, a las que en mi caso llegué vía Humanismo y Conectividad) es imposible no sentir simpatía por el equipo de WikiLeaks y que al mismo tiempo se te abran dudas sobre la organización ante su "alianza con medios", el excesivo protagonismo de Assange o ver la deserción del equipo original de los creadores de OpenLeaks. Sin entrar a valorar los efectos colaterales que parece se han producido por la difusión de algunas cuestiones de alta sensibilidad y si el fin, de verdad, justifica los medios.
Y dentro de todo eso y de que yo haya criticado a Apple por eliminar la aplicación para leer los leaks, que simpatice con el hacktivismo y que haya decidido no dar vida a la cuenta PayPal que nuca pasó del registro o esté cerrando mi wishlist en Amazon ... la verdad es que piezas bien escritas te hacen pensar y dar muchas vueltas sobre qué es lo correcto (si es que lo hay).
Un ejemplo es el artículo de Jaron Lanier The Hazards of Nerd Supremacy: The Case of WikiLeaks. Largo, en inglés, complejo, no deja de plantear ideas interesantes sobre los límites de la libertad de expresión y la necesidad de secretos (mira, yo siempre dudé de que los hubiera, hasta que pensé en cómo explicárselos a mi sobrino de 14 años, en como hacerle ver la diferencia entre la LIBERTAD de expresión y la falta de respeto amparada en ella, que es dónde calculo que se encuentran).
En fin, un artículo que merece la pena leer:
The ideology that drives a lot of the online world -- not just Wikileaks but also mainstream sites like Facebook -- is the idea that information in sufficiently large quantity automatically becomes Truth. For extremists, this means that the Internet is coming alive as a new, singular, global, post-human, superior life form. For more moderate sympathizers, if information is truth, and the truth will set you free, then adding more information to the Internet automatically makes the world better and people freer.
The one exception to be carved out is that technically skilled programmers are celebrated for erecting digital privacy curtains around themselves. Thus we didn't necessarily get to know where Mr. Assange was at a given moment, before his detention on rape-related charges, or what Facebook or Google know about you.
But leaving hypocrisy aside, is there something to the idea? If the number of secrets falls with each passing minute and gradually approaches zero, what does that do to the world? Would a world without secrets be fairer, or more compassionate? More efficient? Does it matter if some secrets are revealed before others?
Can we say Wikileaks is doing anything beyond sterile information worship? Is it engaged in nonviolent activism?
We celebrate the masters of nonviolent activism, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. All these figures displayed astounding courage, faced arrest, and suffered without hating their oppressors in order to demonstrate a common humanity. These remarkable people did not make "Crush the bastards" into their mantra.
So the question has to be, if you add the Internet, can you now be a nonviolent activist without having to show courage and respect the opposing side? Is it now suddenly helpful to be a troll, attacking from the darkness, as the members of Anonymous do? Does the Internet really make life that much easier?
Of course it doesn't.
Even we people need structure in our affairs. Imagine openness extrapolated to an extreme. What if we come to be able to read each other's thoughts? Then there would be no thoughts. Your head has to be different from mine if you are to be a person with something to say to me. You need an interior space that is different from mine in order to have a different, exotic model of the world, so that our two models can meet, and have a conversation.
Privacy is not about anachronistic prohibitions on information flow, but about personhood. I was one of those young hackers who didn't get this point for a long time. I used to think that an open world would favor the honest and the true, and disfavor the schemers and the scammers. In moderation this idea has some value, but if privacy were to be vanquished, people would initially become dull, then incompetent, and then cease to exist. Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people.
Improving access to information can be a very good thing in the right circumstances. For instance, another huge factor in making code better (in addition to structure) was a flow of information feedback from the real world.
Coding used to be based on hope. You'd code something and someone else would experience whether it crashed or not, and while they would let you know, it was hard to learn much from their tales of woe. With the arrival of the Internet, crash logs could be reported back to the programmers automatically, so software engineering became a closed loop feedback system. I well remember Steven Sinofsky showing me the early results of this flow of data about crashes in the early Windows operating system. It was as if a new sense organ had suddenly sprouted on one's face.
I bring this up to say that asking whether secrets in the abstract are good or bad is ridiculous. A huge flow of data that one doesn't know how to interpret in context is either useless or worse than useless, if you let it impress you too much. A contextualized flow of data that answers a question you know how to ask can be invaluable.
The flip side of responsibly held secrets, however, is trust. A perfectly open world, without secrets, would be a world without the need for trust, and therefore a world without trust. What a sad sterile place that would be: A perfect world for machines.