Everyone has secrets. While, by definition, we’d prefer that all of our secrets remain well, a secret that doesn’t always happen. Unfortunately, things that we’d prefer not become public knowledge sometimes do with the resulting ramifications ranging from mild embarrassment to things like loss of political office. Now, to be fair, it should be noted that this embarrassment scale leans toward the subjective, although the political elements tend to be a little more clear-cut. As any sane person would understand, cloud providers have aspects of their operations that they expect to be confidential, but as they used to say “Loose lips sink ships” and WikiLinks is in the loose lip business as AWS recently found out.
Interestingly, WikiLeaks has historically beaten its chest in pronouncing itself a guardian against political tyranny. Reasonable people may disagree over whether releasing top secret war plans or outing overseas spies help maintain a bulwark against American overreach, but this AWS related “leakage” doesn’t seem to exactly speak truth to power. As a matter of fact, I have no idea how this fits into WikiLeaks’ benevolent mission.
While no one has ever doubted that AWS has more than a couple of data centers, their locations haven’t been a mystery keeping us all up at night. As long as their AWS-supported applications worked as required, folks weren’t too concerned about the underlying infrastructure. It’s kind of like when a repairman comes to fix something at your house, spends 15 minutes telling you how he did it, and you stand there wondering what to defrost for dinner. In other words, “I don’t care how it works as long as it works when I need it.” Apparently, whoever is in charge at Wikileaks does not have quite this same laissez-faire attitude toward AWS’ cloud apparatus.
No one can say for sure why Wikileaks decided to release an alleged internal Amazon document identifying the secret locations of the company’s data centers…as of 2015. Perhaps things were a little slow in the document dumping businesses, not everything can be classified emails from an illegal server after all, but the general response to the disclosure of the roadmap to AWS data center location was a collective, “meh.”
Although disclosing a three-year-old list of data center locations seems like a rather desperate attempt at remaining relevant on the part of WikiLeaks, it doesn’t mean that organizations don’t have a right to keep some aspects of their operation shielded from prying eyes. Indeed, times have changed since the days when it was desirable to keep the locations of data centers and missile silos out of the public record, but a secret is a secret and AWS has a right to theirs. It’s not unreasonable to question WikiLeaks’ motives behind this new foray into the corporate realm. Releasing government secrets under the aegis of transparency—especially by a firm with alleged Russian ties—has always had supporters and detractors, but is releasing AWS’ data center locations exposing some threat to our liberty or a veiled message to companies that they could impact them economically if they so desired? Hard to say but they wouldn’t be the first to effectively enshroud blackmail in a cloak of virtuosity.
The severity of the disclosure of a secret is really in the eyes of the beholder, but shouldn’t the decision to disclose it be up to them and not an organization of questionable origin and dubious motive. That’s what we have the National Enquirer for, and the secrets they expose are a little more interesting than data center locations.