WikiLeaks has been releasing the names of rape survivors, civilian medical records

WikiLeaks exposing very personal secrets online


In the process of releasing data on public and government figures, WikiLeaks has exposed hundreds of regular citizens, including rape survivors, sick children and the mentally ill, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

WikiLeaks, a nonprofit news outlet run by Julian Assange, who has sought asylum from Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations, has a reputation for exposing government secrets, including unpublished military operations, intelligence gathering efforts and corruption. But the AP says WikiLeaks has often failed to appropriately handle the information of private citizens in its take-no-prisoners approach.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Files
A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holds a banner outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he marks three years since Assange claimed asylum in the embassy on June 19, 2015. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange clocks up three years inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London today, after claiming that Swedish prosecutors cancelled a landmark meeting in his case earlier this week. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange holds banners outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he marks three years since Assange claimed asylum in the embassy on June 19, 2015. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange clocks up three years inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London today, after claiming that Swedish prosecutors cancelled a landmark meeting in his case earlier this week. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Julian Assange, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks speaks via video link during a press conference on the occasion of the ten year anniversary celebration of WikiLeaks in Berlin, Germany, October 4, 2016. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appears on screen via video link during his participation as a guest panelist in an International Seminar on the 60th anniversary of the college of Journalists of Chile in Santiago, Chile, July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido
File photo dated 05/02/16 of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who will publish more confidential documents on the US Central Intelligence Agency once a "key attack code" has been disarmed, he has revealed.
File photo dated 5/2/2016 of Julian Assange who has defended the release of emails by WikiLeaks about US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has been living for more than three years after the country granted him political asylum.
BERLIN, GERMANY - OCTOBER 4: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange participates via video link at a news conference marking the 10th anniversary of the secrecy-spilling group in Berlin, Germany on October 4, 2016. (Photo by Maurizio Gambarini/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet presents in Quito, Ecuador, on June 23, 2016 the Ecuador 's book " When Google found Wikileaks". Julian Assange made his appearance to the world in 2010 with the publication by WikiLeaks of thousands of secret documents revealing conspiracies , corruption, crimes , lies, and incriminate several governments and particularly the United States as the main actor illegalities. (Photo by Rafael Rodr�uez/ACGPHOTO/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange prepares to speak from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy where he continues to seek asylum following an extradition request from Sweden in 2012, on February 5, 2016 in London, England. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has insisted that Mr Assange's detention should be brought to an end. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 05: A panel of WikiLeaks representitives and press look on as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks at a press conference at the Frontline Club via video link from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on 5 February 2016 in London, England. Mr Assange's speech comes a day after it was announced that the UN panel ruled he was being unlawfully detained at the Ecuadorian Embassy. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
Australian founder of whistleblowing website, 'WikiLeaks', Julian Assange speaks to media after giving a press conference in London on July 26, 2010. The founder of a website which published tens of thousands of leaked military files about the war in Afghanistan said Monday they showed that the 'course of the war needs to change'. In all, some 92,000 documents dating back to 2004 were released by the whistleblowers' website Wikileaks to the New York Times, Britain's Guardian newspaper, and Germany's Der Spiegel news weekly. Assange also used a press conference in London to dismiss the White House's furious reaction to the disclosures. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Wikileaks founder Julian Assange poses during a portrait shoot on May 21, 2010 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Chew/Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
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"They published everything: my phone, address, name, details," an unnamed Saudi man told the AP, whose paternity dispute with his former partner had been published by the website. "If the family of my wife saw this. ... Publishing personal stuff like that could destroy people."

In the last year, the outlet has published a series of at least 124 medical files belonging to and identifying "scores" of ordinary people, according to the AP. In two cases, the outlet named teen rape survivors. Another published the information of a Saudi Arabian citizen who was arrested for being gay, which is punishable by death under Saudi law.

WikiLeaks has been releasing the names of rape survivors, civilian medical records
Julian Assange
Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

In July, WikiLeaks released thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee containing embarrassing information — the same month WikiLeaks released thousands of emails allegedly from members of Turkey's AKP party. The fact that this has happened so frequently dilutes Assange's vow to keep ordinary people out of the spotlight.

"We have a harm minimization policy," Assange said in July 2010, according to the AP. "There are legitimate secrets. Your records with your doctor, that's a legitimate secret."

WikiLeaks responded to the debacle via Twitter, calling the whole thing "ridiculous" and a "re-run" of a 2015 AP report, and noting that the Saudi government already possessed all the sensitive information.

But while a government possessing personal civilian information may be precarious from a legal angle, the social and personal leaks still hold great potential to ruin lives. One instance revealed a partially disabled woman, who'd gone into debt to take care of a sick relative.

"This is a disaster," the woman told the AP. "What if my brothers, neighbors, people I know or even don't know have seen it? What is the use of publishing my story?"

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