You can’t have missed the furor surrounding Wikileaks’ publishing of security cables. The thing is, do we – the public – benefit from this? Yes, there may be a certain amount of justification and interest around the close relationship and extravagant gifts exchanged between Putin and Berlusconi, but how is it of benefit to publicise the fact that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran? In such a volatile environment, is transparency always preferable? For security and intelligence services, where do you draw the line between disclosure and the need for confidentiality? Do we believe that every element of government should be conducted in public view?

Wikileaks has made the cables available to the Guardian and four other news organisations: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to dump the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to “publish names that would endanger innocent individuals”. WikiLeaks also says it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities. Thing is, are any of these organizations qualified to assess what will or will not trigger reaction or endanger individuals/groups/economies? What is their basis for assessment and judgement? Will all media conform to the same restrictions?

  • The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them
  • This document release reveals the contradictions between the US’s public persona and what it says behind closed doors – and shows that if citizens in a democracy want their governments to reflect their wishes, they should ask to see what’s going on behind the scenes.
  • Every American schoolchild is taught that George Washington – the country’s first President – could not tell a lie. If the administrations of his successors lived up to the same principle, today’s document flood would be a mere embarrassment. Instead, the US Government has been warning governments — even the most corrupt — around the world about the coming leaks and is bracing itself for the exposures.[Wikileaks]

So the US does work behind closed-doors that contradicts public policy. Is this unique to the US or is it activity that’s mirrored by governments world-wide? The fact that this is US only means, to a certain extent, we’re listening to one side of a phone call, hearing one opinion. Would it have been safer if Wikileaks put out similar missives gleaned from UK, Chinese, French, Italian, Russian and Indian embassies? Would we have seen vastly different practices?

Personally, I don’t agree with the leak. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I still believe there’s a need for confidentiality and breaching it here has the potential to unsettle far more than US diplomatic communications processes.

You can read the Guardian splash, here, if you haven’t already.

@WillOConnor

Zynga, the fast-growing maker of Facebook games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars, has been called by the New York Times “the hottest start-up to emerge from Silicon Valley since Twitter and, before that, Facebook.” This week, its CEO, Mark Pincus, is profiled in the story, the second in two weeks, highlighting the company’s recent success (though not without its fair share of controversy).  Among other things, the article profiles Pincus as a fearless entrepreneur and visionary aiming to build an online entertainment empire as important to the internet “as Google is to search.”

While Zynga will cite profits and player numbers as success criteria, it is another recent trend Zynga is pioneering that has caught my attention; advertising through social gaming. Zynga came under fire recently for allowing advertisements into its games. Some ads, for example, signed up players for subscriptions to costly text-messaging services. This caused a PR headache for the company with TechCrunch, the technology blog, calling the practice “ScamVille,” after some users filed a class-action lawsuit.

But with 211 million players every month, according to AppData.com, Zynga is perhaps well on its way to making social gaming as important to the internet as anything else thanks to a new partnership with an American food manufacturer, (also covered in the New York Times recently).  Cascadian Farm, an organic farm in the U.S. and subsidiary of General Mills, is using one of Zynga’s more popular games, Farmville, to reach a growing customer segment through advertising. Instead of your bog standard click-through ads a la GoogleAd Words however, the Cascadian Farms content will be integrated into the gaming experience.  

In Farmville, you participate, create, build and manage your own farm. You gain experience points by visiting your friends’ farms and lending a virtual hand. From next week, players in the U.S. will be able to purchase (using farm bucks) and plant, an organic blueberry crop from Cascadian Farm.  In doing so, FarmVille users will learn about organic farming and green living through standard game play, and at the same time, earn additional points to grow fruits and vegetables or raise animals on their virtual farms. Cascadian Farm executives said in a New York Times article that they hope that the company can expand its food niche and make itself better known by increasing awareness among FarmVille’s audience – that’s 221 million players a month. Users will also be able to access a $1 off coupon.

It will be curious to see just how successful Cascadian Farm is on Farmville. Will the strategy work to attract and educate potential customers through participation and content or will it back fire just like the imbedded ads? While integration in game play gives the user unique exposure to content in an experiential manner, will users see through the stunt and reject it as advertising or is this campaign just clever enough to work?   
 

@jacqui_cooper

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