Some media outlets (specifically 9to5Mac) made the choice to release some of these early leaks to the public, which to me seems like a questionable move from an ethical standpoint. It effectively strikes me as careless journalism.
There is a calculus to be played with leaked documents—call it the Edward Snowden rule: Does the information help improve the public interest? Could it save lives? Does it endanger people? Or could we live without it?
And as much as I love Apple leaks, this kind of information clearly does not rise to the level of traditional whistleblowing. (And given that a whistleblower-driven story is in the news
at the same time that puts this story to shame, it further puts the saga in bad light.) Like many ransomware attacks, it comes with legitimate harms that the leaks contribute to in this specific case. All it does is reward some hackers that want Apple to pay them lots of money.
(For what it’s worth, MacRumors
struck a more delicate balance—not posting the images but reporting their existence. While admitting it’s not perfect, it feels more right than what 9to5Mac
did. The Verge did one better
by saying it wouldn’t report on the leaks in-depth.)
As you may be aware, Apple leaks have been a famously fraught cottage industry for years—the company had a notably icy relationship with ThinkSecret
, and the infamous Gizmodo iPhone 4 leak
still remains to this day one of the most interesting events in the history of technology journalism. (And there was a lot of back and forth around the ethics of Gizmodo
paying for that iPhone, including accusations of extortion
But nothing along the lines of a scoop-driven ransomware attack has ever fallen upon this segment of the technology journalism industry before, and I think the looser standards around the leak-based beat that is Apple reporting could cloud judgment over what might be the right thing to do in this situation.
Ransomware is a bad thing, and it affects many regular companies, too. It could even hit a publication like 9to5Mac at some point. I think the short-term gains of another day of leaks don’t topple the long-term decline of standards that attacks like these threaten. It’s bad policy and media outlets in the tech leaks space need to really think hard about what they publish right now.
After all, we’re not talking about the Pentagon Papers here. We’re talking about whether a laptop we’re going to see in two months has an HDMI port or not.