A searchable database of more than 200,000 company names involved in the Panama Papers leak will be released at 2:00 p.m. Eastern time today, unleashing an overwhelming flood of information for citizen journalists, news organizations, and internet vigilantes.
The 11.5 million files leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has been hailed as an example of income inequality. It’s brought new light to exactly how many rich people take advantage of offshore tax havens. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), the group managing which documents from the leak are released, maintains that not all of the companies and people listed in the 2.6 terabytes of leaked data are guilty of crimes. Take, for example, Jackie Chan and his six shell corporations.
A lot of the people named in the leak were using shell companies for legal uses, but as President Barack Obama said in April: “That’s exactly the problem.”
The ICIJ sat on the data to parse through which information is release-worthy. While the searchable database will allow everyday people (and, presumably, major news outlets that were left out of the investigations like the New York Times) to do some of their own investigative searches, the ICIJ is only putting “selected and limited information” into the database.
The ICIJ says, “The database will not include records of bank accounts and financial transactions, emails and other correspondence, passports and telephone numbers.”
This sets it apart from the WikiLeaks dump in 2010, since the ICIJ is retaining some editorial control over the information “John Doe” handed over. JD himself wrote an essay titled “The Revolution Will Be Digitized,” where he explained why he initiated this information tsunami. But the people who were involved likely have their own psychological reasons for getting involved.
Even though not all of the data is being released, it is still a ton of information. You can bet that more scandal will be revealed as more people have a chance to sift through the names and addresses.