In the course of being up to date on current affairs, you are likely to be familiar with the names Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and, consequently, will have heard the name Wikileaks.
The whistleblowing website has been instrumental in making many people aware of a wide range of circumstances that they would not otherwise have ever known.
Rather than being a standard news organization that has the ultimate goal of making a profit through the provision of news, Wikileaks considers itself a media organization that is not for profit. In addition to this, it is less concerned with the regular news that most of us take in every day via newspapers and news programs, and more inclined to provide details on issues that some would prefer was not publicly known.
The name Julian Assange is synonymous with Wikileaks as he is the man who has been responsible for editing the website since it was created in 2006. In some spheres, he is named as the founder of the website, though he is certainly looked to as the spokesman despite living in exile from his native Australia in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The gradual release of information that is available through Wikileaks has created reverberations around the world, with standard media companies picking up on stories and delivering them to a readership that would not have visited the website themselves.
It has been able to open the eyes of many people who may be more inclined to get involved in politics as a result. They will attempt to get transparency in the dealings of the governments of their respective countries.
The reasons why Wikileaks has changed the way privacy on the Internet is seen is two-fold.
Firstly, the fact that the public now has access to information that previously had been kept hidden has been a revelation. The privacy that some people and organizations seeking to rely on by conducting business via the Internet is no longer available, as Wikileaks has no qualms about publishing material it sees fit and refusing to take it down.
The vast range of stories that have come from the whistleblowing website has demonstrated how much is hidden within the confines of the online world.
Chelsea Manning has been linked to the website due to the fact that she used it to disclose information gathered from the US army; she was the cause of arguably the most controversial release of the information featured on the website. It shows that there are people who are prepared to risk their freedom for something that they believe in strongly.
Though Wikileaks makes this possible, it is not the case that those that run the website are the ones gathering the information, they just provide a platform on which it can be accessed.
With this being the case, those hackers who gain access to inboxes may have previously only ever used them for the purposes of blackmail, but now they have a means by which the emails that they copy can be disseminated to a much larger audience.
The victims of these hacks that have had their private emails revealed could attest to the fact that they can no longer consider their use of the Internet private.
While this may not seem to be something that the general public needs to worry about directly affecting them, it is worth bearing in mind that hackers have been known to gain access to popular Internet service providers. Accordingly, all the parties that use these services are at risk of their private online dealings becoming public.
With the increasingly frequent number of instances of large international companies being hacked, it appears that the idea of privacy online is more like a myth than a guarantee.
The realization that has hit many people since the creation of Wikileaks not only relates to the fact that there is more happening with organizations than they realized, but also that their own information is not as secure as they thought.
There are many people who have always had concerns by the actions of their government and strive to seek transparency from them though they may have been conspiracy theorists, Wikileaks has proved to be a vindication and shown they were right to be concerned.
The website has helped people to recognize that they are being spied on to a greater extent than they imagined if they had even considered it at all. Wikileaks has shown, for example, that both the US and UK governments have extensive powers to spy on their citizens by viewing their activity on the Internet, seemingly under tenuous reasons.
Many people would consider this type of behavior more relevant to China or North Korea and have been surprised to find that it applies to the country in which they live. These citizens that use the Internet have been forced to recognize that they cannot rely on their online activity remaining private, as the law is such that their government is permitted to view their details without needing to obtain their permission and without giving any warning.
Under the guise of protecting their respective countries, governments have been shown to have a significant amount of power in which to snoop and this has been brought to the fore by Wikileaks.
The unabashed whistleblowing website may be the scourge of those people that rely on secrecy to be able to get away with immoral, illicit or ill-advised actions. However, it also shows the privacy that the public at large believe that they have in their normal everyday use of the Internet, such as in sending an email or making an online purchase, is non-existent.