On 28 November 2010, WikiLeaks published the first 220 of more than 250,000 confidential messages sent by U.S. diplomats around the world (see http://cablegate.wikileaks.org/ ). The release of the materials has upset and embarrassed U.S. and other government officials.
In a digital age, governments or private enterprises cannot count on privacy. Any digital information is discoverable whether by the deliberate action of people inside the enterprise, the hacking of people outside, or simple human error or system failure. Disclosure is almost inevitable because:
Additional technical or procedural measures may reduce future disclosures but cannot prevent them entirely. Conventional computer systems connected to the Internet will always be vulnerable to external attack. And the recent Stuxnet virus demonstrated that a determined and expert hacker can penetrate any computer system, even when it is supposedly protected by an "air gap" between it and the outside world.
Governments officials who take heavy-handed steps to prevent further embarrassment may fuel the public's suspicions and motivate more leaks. Private enterprises that do not prepare for leaks may suffer significant commercial damage. For more on the implications of digital information on secrecy, see Richard Hunter's book "World Without Secrets: Business, Crime and Privacy in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing."
Government and business leaders:
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