I blogged about “twittergate” yesterday, and it seems like the topic of “was this ethical” continues to rear its head across blogs and publications. LewisPR put up a poll asking “Was TechCrunch right to publish Twitter’s business plans?” – the overwhelming majority as I write this says “no”. So this post is dedicated to all the “yes”es out there. I’ll outline parallel “ethical dilemmas” and we’ll see how easy this really is to boil down.
You walk into a pawn shop (for whatever reason). While in the shop you see a car stereo selling for $10. It’s brand new (clearly) and you pull out your iPhone, google the product number, and learn it retails for $399. But here it is, in front of you, without a box or instructions, for only $10. You inquire to the store manager as to its origin, he merely responds that someone sold it to him (along with a briefcase and laptop). As you inspect the unit for damage, you see some scratches around the edges and some of the wires on the back are broken, implying it was previously mounted into a car dashboard and hastily removed. In hushed tones, the pawn broker says it was almost definitely stolen. Do you buy it?
If you said “yes”, congratulations, you are contributing to the country’s crime problem. Well done. Scumbag.
A quick analysis of the above scenario should reveal the overall answer to why you shouldn’t buy or otherwise endorse stolen things. Even emails.
The person closest to you in the whole world (old friend, spouse, parent, sibling – you pick) accidentally CC’s you on an internal company email with lots of important sensitive documents. You run a top media outlet and frequently make/break news. The documents contain many company secrets. Your friend/spouse/etc informs you that publishing the documents would cost them their job, and possibly hurt their business in a massive way (and probably end your relationship). Do you publish them (and knowingly cause a person you love to become unemployed based on your direct actions)?
If you said “yes”, my hunch is you’ve formed no close relationships in your life and probably need some help. Seriously, you’d do something that would cause your kid brother to lose his job? Wha???
A quick analysis of the above scenario should reveal that when your actions can hurt those you love, you think quite carefully about them. And if that’s true, shouldn’t we have the same respect for those who aren’t necessarily as close to us?
So back to “twittergate”. We’ve asserted that endorsing theft is wrong. We’ve asserted that there are times when we shouldn’t reveal secrets, regardless of the means by which we learned them. So by the transitive property…