Reflecting on Snowden and Manning: Plugging corporate leaks while empowering legitimate whistle-blowers

Do you think Edward Snowden is a traitor for leaking secrets from the National Security Administration or a whistle-blower who should be thanked for his service, as Eugene Robinson opines in today’s Washington Post?

Free Bradley Manning protestor

The same question could be asked about Private Bradley Manning, the serial-leaking traitor (unless you think he is a hero) who yesterday was found not guilty of the most damning charge against him–aiding the enemy–but convicted of so many other charges he may very well spend the rest of his life in military prison. US News and World Report calls Manning “The Poster Child for Failing to Prevent Leaks.”

enter site The convergence of these two newsmakers gives those entrusted with protecting corporate reputation plenty to think about, including issues related to leaks:

  • What actions is your company taking to protect sensitive information? Is it clear to all employees that anyone who breaches the company trust will face sever consequences, likely including the loss of his/her job?
  • Do employees know what the company policies are regarding their participation in social media as an unofficial representative of the company? Do they need to be reminded that their obligation to safeguard information they’ve been trusted with, a commitment that somehow can go out the window when they’re Facebooking?

follow url But it’s also an excellent opportunity to ensure employees feel empowered to properly report ethical breaches:

  • Whistle-blowers often are highly ethical employees who just want the company to behave honorably.Their actions can help identify problems before they get truly out of control.  But sometimes “whistle-blowers” turn out to be bitter and twisted haters frustrated by a missed promotion or jealous of others. Does your company consistently treat whistle-blowers seriously, given the presumption of the moral high-ground until proven otherwise?
  • Do employees have a toll-free number available that they can use to report possible ethics violations, harassment or other potentially illegal actions without fear of reprisal? While most matters can and should be handled within the “chain of command,” an employee might very well feel uncomfortable in reporting allegations of improper actions to his/her supervisor, who might very well be implicated. Companies that do not make available a means for anonymously reporting potential violations operate under an increased risk of problems festering far longer than they need to. And that can be a litigation ticking time bomb.

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