Whistleblowers, blackmailers, hackers and anyone with a grudge will soon be able to sell confidential information of all kinds through Darkleaks, in return for bitcoin payments.
“There is no identity, no central operator and no interaction between leaker and buyers,” the site’s creators. Documents will be uploaded anonymously, before being sold to the highest bidder via a peer-to-peer bitcoin payment network.
“Darkleaks is a decentralised blackmarket where you can sell information. It has a mechanism for trustless authentication of documents that are being sold through a novel cryptographic mechanism,” they explain.
“Before paying for the file, a random selection of segments are released chosen by the block chain demonstrating the file’s contents match the leaker’s claim.”
In what could be seen as a swipe at the Fed’s recent attempt to embrace cryptocurrencies, the group also says that the illegal trade of secrets is “just the tip of the iceberg for all the possibilities bitcoin can deliver.”
While the site asserts that its goal is to increase freedom by exposing malpractice and unethical practices such as tax evasion and sensitive military trade and corporate secrets, there is no guarantee that either the sellers or the buyers will be motivated by the public interest. It also explicitly includes “celebrity sex pictures” on its list of the kind of documents that will be shared, suggesting that seller’s aims are far from noble.
Even whistleblowers such as ex-MI5 operative Annie Machon, who agrees that “you do need these sorts of groups”, have criticised the Darkleaks concept by pointing out that selling information for personal gain is not equivalent to leaking information for moral reasons.
“When you’re selling information you’re not really a whistleblower under the legislative legal definition in almost any country,” Beatrice Edwards, executive director of the Government Accountability Project in the US, told the New Scientist.
But, she warned, the “punitive” approach of the US government may force genuine whistleblowers towards the underground exchange of information.
“The Obama administration prosecutes national security whistleblowers rather than protecting them,” she said.
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