What’s the difference between Edward Snowden’s leak and the recent reveals of hacked DNC emails? While the press has eagerly dug into both, cybersecurity expert Jonathan Zittrain says:

“There’s enough injustice and wrong around the world and at home that handwringing about the leaked email of public servants or other notables may seem overwrought… [But] To bless it is to condone vigilantism, or intrusion by other states into our own citizens’ private affairs.”

He provides the example of a White House staffer whose entire personal email archive – which contained no criminal or political information of value – was released onto the web. This breach is in a different category than the leaks from Snowden or Manning, which revealed institutional issues in the public interest. And according to Zittrain, that difference should be reflected in the way media treats the material.

In short, if private citizens are now vulnerable to having their online accounts broken into and reported on for merely being associated with public institutions then everyone else is in danger as well. A Harvard professor of International Law, Policy & Computer Science, Zittrain anticipates that eventually the ethical distinction between hacking public and private figures will disappear, and we could find ourselves in a society where repressive self-censorship is the new normal. He compares the hacking of private citizens to the consumption of “fast food,” with similar “longer term effects on the body politic.” Read the entire article here.

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