SAN FRANCISCO — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair last week said that the release of confidential government information by groups like WikiLeaks threatens to undermine sensitive political and diplomatic discussions.

“We need to get some common sense back into this whole interaction because people need to be able to communicate confidentially,” Blair said Friday during an appearance at the RSA Conference, an annual IT security event.

“And we’ve got to be prepared to take action because this has opened up a whole new set of possibilities in terms of the damage that can be done,” he added. “There are cyber attacks which are… we’re only just beginning to work out the implications of this.”

Blair urged policymakers to draft clear rules to protect confidential communications, though he didn’t mention specific ways to achieve it. “The fact is, in government, there’s a need for, on a certain level, for confidentiality. To not protect that is foolish,” he said.

The threat of political discussions being leaked could force politicians to be too guarded with each other, he said. “I’ve got to be able to speak frankly and they’ve got to be able to speak frankly to me.”

During a question-and-answer session, Art Coviello, RSA executive chairman and executive vice president of the EMC Corp., asked Blair if technology and social media would eventually turn all nations democratic, Blair said he believed so, but there’s a downside side: social media can flare up irrational opinions.

According to Blair, social media has undone a government’s ability to “keep a lid on its people,” but too much openness also can be bad for public business.

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  |  GT Staff Writer

By day, Hilton Collins is a staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines who covers sustainability, cybersecurity and disaster management issues. By night, he’s a sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and if he had to choose between comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. He can be reached at hcollins@govtech.com and on @hiltoncollins on Twitter.