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The Morality of the Leak

The Morality of the Leak

Should a violation of privacy be permitted if it prevents a potential terrorist attack? Is a website hack justifiable if it brings a rapist to justice? Is it OK to do something wrong if it accomplishes the greater good? Questions like these are increasingly important in the digital age as cases of “hacktivism” become more common. Here’s our look at some recent cases involving the gray morality of the leak.


According to information leaked to several newspapers by a former National Security Agency contractor named Edward Snowden, the NSA and FBI accessed the servers of Facebook, Google, YouTube, Skype and other sites to track user messages in an effort to intercept chatter about terrorism. NSA chief Keith Alexander claimed the “legal” program prevented dozens of potential attacks. Yes, they can also now spy on your hilarious fantasy-sports-related email chains.


The home of Anonymous member KYAnonymous was raided by the FBI after he hacked into a high school sports website, leaking information that revealed the identities of two Steubenville High School football players later convicted of rape. The leak also indicated some local officials with ties to the football program were involved in covering up the case. The hacktivist could receive more jail time than the rapists.


A 25-year-old army soldier named Bradley Manning gave the site WikiLeaks hundreds of pages of classified documents—some of which contained information about airstrikes that killed civilians. Manning is facing life in prison.


A hacker by the name of Guccifer broke into the personal email of George W. Bush and leaked images of paintings created by the former president. International ethicists agree: to hide these paintings of dogs, beautiful landscape panoramas and revealing self-portraits from the world any longer would have been absolutely immoral.

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