Forbes, GlobaLeaks Wants To Be The Bittorrent To WikiLeaks’ Napster
26/01/2011 Forbes, GlobaLeaks Wants To Be The Bittorrent To WikiLeaks’ Napster
GlobaLeaks Wants To Be The Bittorrent To WikiLeaks’ Napster
by Andy Greenberg
WikiLeak-alikes are popping up around the globe, from regional sites focused on the Czech Republic to Indonesia. Even mainstream media like Al Jazeera and potentially the New York Times are getting in on the secret-spilling action. But few of these copycats and spinoffs can claim quite as much wild, conceptual ambition as an early-stage project called GlobaLeaks, which bills itself as “a worldwide distributed leak amplification network.”
GlobaLeaks, whose half dozen creators are based in Italy and the Netherlands, has yet to launch and is still hammering out some of its plans. But Fabio Pietrosanti, a spokesperson for the group, tells me it will ultimately invite volunteers around the world to install GlobaLeaks’ software, turning their home computers into hundreds or thousands of leaking “nodes”–miniature, local WikiLeak-type dropboxes designed to share information with media sites with the minimum amount of exposure to potential legal or political enemies.
Those nodes will accept submissions of documents through the anonymity service Tor, ensuring that the node owner will have no knowledge of the source. A GlobaLeak node’s owner filters submissions for spam and publishes them to a private site on Freenet or Tor’s Hidden Services, two anonymity networks designed to keep the locations of sites private and protect them from anyone who doesn’t have password access. Then the leak node administrator will notify a list he or she maintains of local media or NGOs, inviting them to peruse, verify and publicize the leaked material.
The result, Pietrosanti argues, may be best described with an analogy to pirate-friendly filesharing systems. Unlike WikiLeaks, GlobaLeaks will look less like Napster–the original centralized, legally-questionable source of controversial data–and more like Bittorrent, a more distributed and robust system of data distribution.
GlobaLeaks’ chart of its proposed architecture. Click to enlarge.
Specifically, Pietrosanti says GlobaLeaks won’t publish to the public, and won’t have any central point of failure, so it may be less vulnerable to the sort of cyber- and legal attacks that WikiLeaks has faced. “Some people may be like Assange, and say ok, we’ll publish and fight and whatever,” says Pietrosanti. ”But lots of people want to fight corruption without taking that much responsibility. If the risk profile of everyone who runs a leak node is reduced, there will be lot more leak nodes.”
GlobaLeaks’ other distinction over WikiLeaks, in theory, may be its ability to receive and publicize local leaks. Because the nodes can be run by individuals who speak a local language and track local media, it should be able to find outlets for regionally-relevant whistleblowing material–information that WikiLeaks and its international partners like the Guardian and the New York Times would likely ignore.
“Small cities have plenty of corruption, and WikiLeaks would never reach the local people, the local media,” says Pietrosanti. “That’ s one of the most important thing for us.”
One clear challenge to GlobaLeaks’ ability to obtain insider information may be the ability of those local leaking nodes to gain the notoriety necessary to attract potential leakers. But Pietrosanti says each node owner will be responsible for doing his or her own publicity, and GlobaLeaks may also keep a central list of trustworthy nodes.
In some respects, GlobaLeaks resembles a more distributed version of OpenLeaks, the WikiLeaks spinoff created by former WikiLeaker Daniel Domscheit-Berg and intended to create secure drop boxes on the websites of media partners. In fact, Pietrosanti says that GlobaLeaks first registered OpenLeak.org, but gave up the name when Domscheit-Berg’s higher-profile project went public.
Also like OpenLeaks, GlobaLeaks remains mostly a pipe dream for now. (OpenLeaks still hasn’t actually put anything on its site, more than a month after its intended launch date.) The group hasn’t even decided what platform its software will run on. Its website is littered with spelling errors and “TO DO” notes. But if the project can plant its seeds in time to catch the current season of web users bent on opening governments and corporations worldwide, its grassroots network may just take hold.
Check out GlobaLeaks’ site, with many more details of its plans, here.
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