Revelations from the massive #PanamaPapers data dump are still being made by journalists across the world, but one thing seems to be clear.
According to Ramon Fonseca, a co-founder of Mossack Fonseca, the Panamanian company whose dealings have been leaked for all to see, this was a hack.
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Unlike those released by Ed Snowden, he told Panama’s Channel 2 that the documents were obtained illegally by hackers, according to Bloomberg.
The German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which was first offered the data more than a year ago, says it was sent the files through an encrypted channel by an anonymous source, but it was not asked for any money in exchange.
Whatever the method, asked about the leak yesterday in a live Q&A, Snowden’s lawyer Ben Wizner, who also works for the American Civil Liberties Union, said:
We want our governments and elite institutions to be more transparent, and we want individuals and activists to have more privacy. Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve seen something like the reverse. Aristotle wrote that when government knows everything about citizens, and citizens know little about government, that’s tyranny. When citizens know everything about government, and government knows little about citizens, that’s democracy. We’ll need strong tools to protect individual privacy, particularly in repressive regimes. And we’ll need transparency as a disinfectant.
Whether this was someone on the inside, or someone with a bit of knowhow on the outside, it seems the days of elites being able to hide their dodgy dealings are numbered.
Hackers haven’t always made a good name for themselves, and some point out that there is little public accountability around who or what they target, but in this instance, it seems like the vigilantes are fighting in the public interest.
No doubt, though, those with something to lose will be shoring up their systems and looking for someone to punish.