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What Is an Internet Leak?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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An Internet leak is a situation in which information that is not yet ready for release to the general public is suddenly made available on one or more web sites. A wide range of data may be released in this fashion, usually without the express permission of the owner of that information. In the past, data such as tracks from an upcoming music release, scenes from an upcoming motion picture, and even copies of proprietary documents have all been leaked to the public via a website. While there is often some sort of malice involved in the premature release of data online, this process can sometimes be initiated by the owner as part of a public relations strategy.

Typically, the Internet leak occurs without the knowledge or the permission of the individual or entity owing the data. The leaked information is often obtained by means of hacking into networks and accessing proprietary databases, with the hacker ultimately choosing to share that data at strategic sites around the Internet. Since the information is obtained without the permission of the owner and is not intended for release to the general public at that time, Internet leaking can create a number of difficulties for the owner of the released data. In many nations, stricter laws related to the protection of intellectual property are being passed, although those laws and the level of protections provided will vary.

The nature of the Internet leak may involve sharing of personal information online without the permission of the individual involved. This may include the release of video recorded without the permission of the people captured in the presentation, a strategy that may be employed as a means of intentionally causing embarrassment or shame for an individual. In addition, hackers may choose to break through security protocols of big businesses or even government entities in order to locate proprietary information and then release it to the general public, usually with the intention of causing some sort of harm to the data owner.

While uncommon, the strategy of an Internet leak can sometimes be used by owners rather than hackers. When this is the case, what is known as a controlled Internet leak occurs, effectively allowing the release of some data in hopes of generating public interest in additional data related to the release. For example, a motion picture studio may secretly but intentionally leak out-takes from an upcoming feature film as a means of attracting interest from the public, hopefully translating that interest into more box office receipts when the film is eventually made available to movie theaters.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By Logicfest — On Jul 07, 2014

@Markerrag -- I figure that would all depend on how the reporter got his mitts on the information. When it comes to stealing information from a company, the thief could most certainly be in trouble with the law.

If that thief simply turns the information over to a reporter, it is unlikely the journalist would be in trouble for simply doing some research and writing an article based on the leaked stuff. If you think about it, reporters for years have relied on information gotten by sometimes questionable means. The public has a right to know what's going on and a reporter who doesn't initiate stealing information but uses it in an article is often protected.

By Markerrag — On Jul 06, 2014

A true Internet leak (not a public relations stunt) can lead to some breaking news. The question is whether the news reporter who uses that information to write an article can face any trouble from the angry company that owns the information or the law?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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