The downside of transparency

Wikileak is raising many questions, as the recent media frenzy around Julian Assange’s baby has proven. One of them is discussed by Ben Hammersley in a recent interview:

While I really support the idea of a safe place for whistleblowers to publish information, I have a problem with the fundamentalistic approach Wikileaks is taking. Their basic assumption is that because something is secret, it must be bad. Reality is more complex. Diplomats are like us simple citizens. They should be allowed to have private conversations and opinions. It seems this social dynamic is not well understood as the recent publications of the cables proves.

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Total transparency could be a way of life? There is a country where is happens already (to some extent), and the results are not necessarily the ones we would expect. Time is publishing an article about the downsides of total transparency in Sweden:

but there’s one country where official openness is not just a hypothetical way of governing. Sweden operates closer to an “Assangian” state of absolute transparency than any country in the world, and has long debated whether the policy has the potential to backfire. Swedish sunshine laws are the most far-reaching ever created. Almost every government document — including all mail to and from government offices — is available to the public, save for a small number relating to international relations or national security. […]

But even as it takes its transparency laws for granted, Sweden has long debated whether absolute openness leads, paradoxically, to greater secrecy. In 2004 Inga-Britt Ahlenius, a Swede working on transparency issues within the United Nations, […] tried to review government files, she found only “empty boxes.” “The principle has come to discourage its original purpose,” she added. “It is quite logical: if you are concerned that things will be made immediately public, you do not write it on paper.”

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  1. […] Laurent Haug’s blog » Blog Archive » The downside of transparency laurenthaug.com/blog/2011/01/05/the-downside-of-transparency/ – view page – cached Wikileak is raising many questions, as the recent media frenzy around Julian Assange’s baby has proven. One of them is discussed by Ben Hammersley in a recent interview: […]

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