Snowden and Hacking Morality

When hacking first came to fruition in the Technological Institutes of America it was seen as a form of software development. Students would share code and language tips to assist in a community advancement in technology. And whilst this strong moral ethic still rings true for many, others chose to use the tool for financial gain.

These criminals are known as black hat hackers, but it could be said that hackerism actually splits into three main groups; black, grey and white hat hacking.

The black hats infiltrate the security systems of big companies in order to gain large quantities of customer information that can be used or sold on the dark web.

Grey hat hackers operate in a legal grey area. They participate in online activism or hacktivism and will often prank their victims in order to ‘teach them a lesson’. However, most of these hackers receive no income from their work and hack for their love of technology. Grey hat groups like the ‘Anonymous’ have become famous for their political operation and comedic style.

White hat hackers are the ‘sheriffs’ of the online world. They protect individuals and companies and operate to maintain harmony amongst hackers.

Within journalism, hacking becomes a unique tool that can be used to obtain or come across restricted or hidden information. A prime example of this can be seen with the case of Edward Snowden. Classified documents where gained through Snowdens hacking of NSA and CIA systems.

This is where we see the importance of which hat the hacker is wearing. Many debate Snowdens actions and interpret his morality as being righteous and with the interests of the public. He released information that exposed a lack of privacy and therefore deserves to be treated as a ‘hero’. Others feel that he was wrong to act the way he did and should face criminal charges as with other criminal hacking cases.

I believe that Snowden served the people and he was right to do so. He exposed a great truth and should be commended for his work. Whilst I recognise the implications of a data leak of this size, I feel that Snowden acted out of public interest to honour our right to know and freedom of speech.