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Do you want to live in a world without secrets?

Xavier Zapata | 09:58 UK time, Wednesday, 8 December 2010

This topic was discussed on World Have Your Say on 08 December 2010. Listen to the programme.

It's groundhog day. Once again the media is drenched in Wikileaks. And beyond Julian Assange's court drama, and the ever flowing torrents of US State Department diplomatic cables, there's a lot of talk about what this means for the way governments share, and withhold, information. So is the world better off without secrets?

The Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has waded into the debate, blaming, in part, US security for the release of thousands of diplomatic cables. He says

Rule No.1 for our friends in the United States is - how do you tighten things up a bit? Maybe 2 million or so people having access to this stuff is a bit of a problem

But is more security the right response? Anthony Lowenstein says Mr Rudd is missing the point

Kevin Rudd doesn't seem to understand the paradigm shift of the Wikileaks release. His answer is more secrecy, less transparency and less democracy. He may find himself more shocked in the months and years ahead.

Whether or not there has been a seismic change in the landscape of information, many say Wikileaks want us to live in a world without secrets. Here's Anthony Brady's analysis of the Wikileaks mission

Assange has a clearly articulated vision for how Wikileaks' activities will "carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity," a strategy for how exposing secrets will ultimately impede the production of future secrets. The point of Wikileaks is simply to make Wikileaks unnecessary

But what does exposing secrets achieve? For Jeff Jarvis the cables have shown us

there is much we should know -- actions taken in our name -- that government holds from us.

He adds that the leaks haven't been that devastating, and says that maybe

the open air is less fearsome than we'd thought. That should lead to less secrecy. After all, the only sure defense against leaks is transparency. (...) Today, in the internet age, power shifts from those who hold secrets to those who create openness.

But not everyone wants to live in an open world. The privacy arguments around Google's Street View in Germany and elsewhere show that some people are scared of the kind of transparency the internet has unleashed.

So why do we need to keep some things private? American author Peter Schweizer argues that governments need some secrets to maintain the trust of other countries:

Without the confidence that what they tell us will stay under lock and key, most leaders in vulnerable countries simply won't cooperate with us. Like personal friendships, alliance partners need to know you can keep a secret.

Musician Derrick Ashong agrees and says the leaks compromise the diplomatic work which ultimately

Prevents us from blowing each other up. The "diplomatic set" is arguably a big part of why we don't have more conflict in our world.

Has Wikileaks blown a hole in the establishment's ability to keep secrets? Is a world without secrets a better one? Or do you trust governments to protect you by keeping sensitive information secret? ?


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