Hero or traitor, Edward Snowden is just the latest whistleblower to leak secrets. Try our quiz!
One man’s whistleblower is another man’s traitor, as Edward Snowden has found since he leaked information about the PRISM programme, which appears to show massive surveillance by the US and other governments.
Snowden is currently hiding in Russia, but hoping for a safe passage to asylum, while the world deals with the political fallout from his leaks. But what makes a whistleblower, and what happens to them after they make their revelations?
People have leaked political and industrial secrets since before the Internet made the job so very easy to do. Instead of handing those secrets to political or commercial rivals, some people believe they have uncovered wrongdoing, and turn informant.
These people spill the beans, either to the authorities or – maybe if the powers-that-be ignore or silence them – to the general public.
Rather than the negative-sounding “informant” or “snitch”, those leaking in the public interest call themselves whistleblowers.
However, thy may get a rough ride. For one thing, who decides what is the public interest? And if a whistleblower exposing wrongdoing accidentally reveals details of innocent bystanders, what happens then?
The last few years have seen whistleblowers using online technology to target climate scientists, neo-Nazis, and even other whistleblowers.
How much do you know about the shady world of whistleblowers?
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