…and I’m not talking about the Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan or the cast of Jersey / Geordie Shores, either. I’m talking about “leakers” — those Snowden types who are entrusted with confidential information, but can’t resist telling other people about it.
I’m going to make a clear distinction between leakers of State secrets — who deserve imprisonment regardless of their motivations, and whom we can discuss some other time — and commercial leakers, such as those addressed in a (leaked!) memo from Apple. I think the Apple folks are precisely correct:
Apple explains that leaked information about a new product can negatively impact sales of the current model, give rival companies more time to build a competing product and hurt sales of a new product when it hits the shelves.
I am unmoved by the apologists who point out that in Apple’s case:
Consumers continue to be in a frenzy each time a new Apple product is rumored, while the tech giant’s stock price has catapulted higher in the past year.
That’s not the point. The point is that when you work for a company, you are privy to information which, as the word “privy” specifically denotes, is privileged information. When you abuse that privilege, the company has “cause” to terminate the leaker (which is spelled out in just about every employment contract, and is implicit in all employment hiring). In extreme cases, as Apple adds in the memo, revealing confidential information can be and has been further grounds for arrest and indictment — which is precisely as it should be. Passing information directly on to a competitor is definitely criminal, and for leaking to the Press, a “scourging” rider should be attached to the criminal penalties.
At best, leaking confidential information is indiscretion; at worst it’s actual espionage. And leaking information just so you can feel important should translate to that feeling of importance as Jamal’s favorite plaything in Cell Block D — and Apple has given its assurance to its employees just how far they will go to making the latter part come true if employees are caught and identified.
I’m no great fan of Apple, but in this case: good for them.
Let us all be perfectly clear about this. We are talking here about ethics — when you are asked on your word of honor to keep a secret, whether on paper or by handshake, you keep your fucking mouth shut.
Lawyers have “client confidentiality” tattooed on their foreheads (metaphorically speaking), and quite frankly, I see no difference between those ethics or any other agreement concerning keeping your mouth shut.
And I don’t care if indiscretion doesn’t lead to any actual harm — e.g. lives being lost as a consequence — because breaching trust of any kind is just plain wrong, regardless of the penalties thereof.
Is that too high a standard? It better not be.
They nailed it perfectly in a bygone era:
…and Apple has simply extended the concept:
I am fully aware of the irony involved in discussing a topic which has arisen from a breach of confidentiality — i.e. a leaked memo from Apple in this particular case — but I could have written this post without any prompting at all. The leaked memo simply provided the spark which resulted in the above. Had I been CEO Tim Cook, I would have posted the memo on the front page of Apple’s website, to inform not only Apple employees but the whole world of its contents. It’s long overdue.