An opinion piece featured in the Wall Street Journal and penned by Dana Mattioli, (paid subscription may be required) Leaks Grow in World of Blogs, addressed a rather disturbing trend over information leaks of personal or corporate sensitive or confidential information. It outlines how specific companies have been surprised by disclosures of pending layoffs or internally sensitive information making its way to external audiences via the mechanism of blogs.
Frankly speaking, I wasn’t surprised by the timing of this editorial, given the fact that from where I sit, too many bloggers, as well as the widespread media, have been crossing the line in terms of respect for individual and corporate rights. Bloggers sometimes solicit negative impressions because of their arrogance or bravado in crossing the line of opinion vs. having the scoop on inside information, or being “in the know”. Rather than calling on companies to strictly withhold forms of communication, why not a code of responsible conduct among bloggers and the media.
In one recent and very visible example, one of the top ten blogs on the Internet, TechCrunch recently crossed the line in business ethics by publishing confidential information which had been stolen by a computer hacker. This system hacker is alleged to have exploited security controls within Google applications, and according to blogsphere postings, copied both business sensitive as well as personal confidential information related to the business interests of Twitter. It included upwards of 300 documents, ranging from calendars and personal preferences of employees, to documents supposedly outlining financial projections, product plans, and other sensitive business material.
In his TechCrunch post, Michael Arrington indicates that he has personally screened all of the documents and has set aside what he and his staffers believe are items that are personally invasive or embarrassing, but indicates he will go ahead and publish some of the documents indicating financial projections, product plans and notes from executive meetings. His argument is that while the person who violated confidentiality or stole information is at fault, it is simply news for TechCrunch to publish.
Let me be clear. This is dead wrong, clearly unethical, and should not be done. Its one thing to have inside information that has been corroborated by another source. It’s clearly another to publish business sensitive or personal information that can impact or damage individuals or corporations. For what purpose?
As for this author, I clearly and unequivocally state that as long as I am authoring this blog, there will never be a crossing of the line in ethical behavior as to how I gather and transmit information. I know where there are limits to ethics, and the law, and I choose to respect them. I do hope others will join me in this pledge.