I would not have wanted to be Edward Snowden in 2013.

After scraping together a 12 minute video for Glenn Greenwald on how to use PGP email encryption (which the then-Guardian reporter admits he ignored), Snowden was left trying to leak documents for which the proper security did not yet exist.

If software like Darkleaks had then existed, would Snowden be comfortably at home with his family in America right now, instead of alone and hiding in Russia?

Identity Doesn't Need to Be Sold With Leaks

“We give the world a new scheme for selling information of any type, form or kind. This is a gift for you to stop corruption and challenge power.”

So reads the opening invitation of Darkleaks, a new peer-to-peer protocol that uses Bitcoin to connect buyers and sellers of information. Leaks are payable in bitcoins, and neither buyers nor seller need ever know each others' identities.

It's developed by Unsystem, the team who brought you the likes of DarkMarket (the framework for Open Bazaar), Defense Distributed (the 3D-printable firearm), Libbitcoin, and Darkwallet.

“When you add a monetary component, you can get data from people who don’t want to pull a Snowden for nothing,” says Peter Todd, member of Unsystem. “This can be a powerful motivator.”

How Doth One Leak?

After downloading the Darkleaks client, a leaker presumably posts a synopsis of the information they'd like to sell. The protocol then divides and encrypts the information into pieces. The leaker sets a price for its public decryption, and contributors can start adding bitcoins to the pot.

An authenticity mechanism is built into the protocol, which is said to ensure that the information put up for sale is really what the seller claims it is.

If the leaker is satisfied with the final price, they claim the bitcoins. Once the money is claimed, the leak is decrypted for all to see.

Darkleaks literature lists some initial information sought as:

  • Hollywood movies
  • Proof of corruption
  • Proprietary source codes
  • Designs for defense and medical tools
  • Naked/sex-related pictures or video of famous people
  • Damning state and corporate secrets

The Economics of Information

Darkleaks sets up an incentive platform where – arguably – one did not exist before. The Mannings and Snowdens of the world leaked the kinds of information that made immense personal loss to them practically inevitable. Personal gain? Other than their clean consciences, forget about it.

“Leakers are taking a risk, and they should be rewarded,” says Unsystem developer Amir Taaki.

Instructions for installing and getting started with Darkleaks can be found here. Unsystem is also inviting programmers to contribute to the code on Darkleaks' Github page.

What results do you predict if Darkleaks takes off?

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