WikiLeaks has released private and highly sensitive information of hundreds of ordinary Saudi citizens. These were embedded in diplomatic cables and documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry. Medical records, sensitive financial details and reports of sexual violence are among the private documents.
A particularly poignant paragraph from a report by AP highlights the severity of the information made public by the leak:
"Three Saudi cables published by the WikiLeaks identified domestic workers who'd been tortured or sexually abused by their employers, giving the women's full names and passport numbers. One cable named a male teenager who was raped by a man while abroad; a second identified another male teenager who was so violently raped his legs were broken; a third outlined the details of a Saudi man detained for 'sexual deviation' — a derogatory term for homosexuality."
"They published everything: my phone, address, name, details," a Saudi man, who had details of a paternity dispute with a former partner leaked, told the AP. "If the family of my wife saw this ... Publishing personal stuff like that could destroy people."
The site has positioned itself as an ardent critic of state surveillance and presented itself as a champion of global privacy.
However, numerous everyday individuals who have had their private information revealed in mass leaks. From credit card details, to the identity of sexual assault victims, to outing private citizens as homosexual in countries where the individuals could face persecution, WikiLeaks has left a trail of information in its wake that could hold untold consequences for thousands of ordinary people.
The AP didn't reveal identities but said it spoke with 23 affected Saudis. Many of the individuals were unaware that this information was accessible to the general publilc. Some reacted with indifference, but many were gravely concerned.
Currently, WikiLeaks is blocked in the kingdom, however, VPN provides quick access to all the information.
A woman, who is partially disabled and had taken on significant financial debt in order to support a sick relative, had her financial information leaked.
"This is a disaster," she said. "What if my brothers, neighbors, people I know or even don't know have seen it? What is the use of publishing my story?"
One activist told the AP that at least 500 passport, identity, academic or employment files were easily accessible just from a partial scan of only the Saudi diplomatic cables, not even touching the many other Saudi files leaked by the site.
WikiLeak's controversial Australian founder Julian Assange has touted the site as an important platform for revealing censored or secret information "involving war, spying and corruption," describing it as a "giant library of the world's most persecuted documents."
Protecting individual privacy appears to have taken a backseat. The site that has taken a staunch stance against state surveillance, arguing that it goes agains personal freedoms and rights to privacy, is now responsible for exposing the secrets and private information of thousands of ordinary people.
In 2010, Assange insisted that systems were in place to keep ordinary individuals' secrets secure. "We have a harm minimization policy," he told an audience in July of 2010. "There are legitimate secrets. Your records with your doctor, that's a legitimate secret."