Our modern computing technology is a fantastic digital receptacle with one pronounced weakness. In exchange for our ability to shoot digitized information across the planet in an instant, we have given away our privacy. Like a faithful pet that suddenly betrays its master, our technology has solidified a future of zero privacy.
In this brave new world, we have grown accustomed to regular data leaks that give the general public, and sometimes unsavory cyber pirates, extremely confidential and damaging information. Sometimes it’s hacked, sometimes it’s leaked, but either way, nothing is private anymore.
People and corporations of all sorts eventually fall victim and find their data compromised. Over the weekend, a massive leak occurred in the secretive world of offshore tax havens. They’re called the Panama Papers, and this time it’s the rich and powerful who are caught in the crossfire.
If you’re behind on the scuttlebutt, here’s a brief summary of the Panama Papers, which will dominate the news cycle for weeks to come. Panama-based Mossack-Fonseca, considered the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, is the victim of a massive leak. The documents give us a play-by-play of how many rich people, including well-known politicians and business elites, hide their money in offshore accounts and shell corporations.
This release is larger than the documents leaked by Snowden or Wikileaks in recent years (Panama Papers include 2.6 terabytes of data, 11.5 million files; all of the Wikileaks combined, by comparison, were just a few gigabytes of information). An anonymous source passed along the data dump to a German newspaper that then shared the info with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
For weeks to come, we will be learning about the who’s who of folks who have used offshore maneuvering to hide money. The Panama Papers include hundreds of politicians from more than 50 countries.
Some notable people currently in office that are specifically named in the Panama Papers include the president of Argentina, the prime minister of Iceland, the king of Saudi Arabia, the emir of Abu Dhabi, and the president of Ukraine.
There are also loads of people who are associated with world leaders, including a Former United Nations Secretary General’s son, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s father, several people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the former king of Spain’s sister.
The Panama Papers reveal a growing problem in the world of tax policy: the very rich often escape taxation because of their sophisticated methods of hiding money in offshore havens. Additionally, places that don’t ask too many questions about the source of these funds, like Panama, provide a home for criminals’ dirty money.
In an era where countries, rich and poor alike, are drowning in debt, the idea that public leaders are complicit in tax evasion is bound to raise some eyebrows. Few hearts will bleed for these high profile people, and many politicians could lose their jobs and their reputations in the wake of these revelations.