Wikileaks Sony hack
WikiLeaks has published data stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment last year in a searchable online archive. The site's editor, Julian Assange (above), argued that it was in the public interest. Getty Images

WikiLeaks on Thursday published a searchable online archive of over 30,000 documents and 173,000 emails stolen from Sony Pictures Entertainment in an unprecedented cyberattack last year.

The site's controversial editor, Julian Assange, said that the public had a right to see the material. "This archive shows the inner workings of an influential multinational corporation. It is newsworthy and at the centre of a geo-political conflict. It belongs in the public domain. WikiLeaks will ensure it stays there," he said in a statement posted on the group's website.

In a press release, WikiLeaks said that the publication was justified by Sony's ties to the White House, lobbying efforts and affiliations with the “military-industrial complex.”

Though the files have been publicly available on file-sharing websites for some time, WikiLeaks' indexing of them makes it far easier for people to search the data and track down information related to specific people or subjects.

“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain,” said Sony in a statement emailed to reporters, cited by Politico. The cache of documents and emails reportedly contains unredacted personal information of Sony employees including their Social Security numbers and health data.

Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd also condemned WikiLeaks' decision to republish the stolen data. “This information was stolen from Sony Pictures as part of an illegal and unprecedented cyberattack,” he wrote in a press statement, cited by the Guardian. “Wikileaks is not performing a public service by making this information easily searchable. Instead, with this despicable act, Wikileaks is further violating the privacy of every person involved.”

U.S. law enforcement agencies blamed the original hack, which saw the data released in November 2014, on North Korea. The breach was viewed as retaliation against Sony Pictures over its film “The Interview,” which depicts an assassination attempt targeting the country's supreme leader, Kim Jong-un. The country had loudly protested about the film before the hack, calling it an “act of war.”

Sony is now facing a class-action lawsuit filed by current and former employees that argues that the company did not take enough precautions to protect their personal data.