Wikileaks and the Age of Transparency (2011) by Micah Sifry is an interesting but flawed book about Wikileaks and how the internet is changing politics. It uses the fame of Wikileaks to promote the author’s own agenda.
Sifry is a successful and interesting person who set up the Personal Democracy Forum and works with Techsoup in similar domains. The book refers to his endeavors repeatedly. It’s a serious problem with the book that it is annoyingly self-promoting.
What’s good about the book is that it places Wikileaks in context which is so important and is often so lacking in discussions about Wikileaks. Sifry points out that Crypthome was doing what Wikileaks does long before it did but hasn’t had nearly the impact that Wikileaks has had. In addition to this Wikileaks is just one of a myriad of sites and movements that the internet has made possible. Sifry discusses the Move On movement, the Tea Party and the uprisings in the Middle East and points out that they have a lot in common.
Sifry writes about how the internet means that far more government, corporate and non-profit information is now available easily to people. He also writes about how various government have repeatedly made noise about how they would put more information online and then have usually backed off.
Sifry also makes good points about Wikileaks and points out that what it is doing is providing information that causes foreign regimes problems with openness, such as with Wikileaks role in Kenya and other places, but that it is also doing it to Western democracies.
The book contains a lot of good ideas but is flawed. It would be great if the author, or someone else, wrote another more considered, less self-promoting work about how the massive increase in electronic information that is happening is changing politics. This book is still worth reading but is ultimately unsatisfying because it fails to put together a really coherent, deeper and more considered view.