By now, you may be familiar with the worst kept secret in America. This week a "confidential" leaked memo announcing all Google employees will receive a 10% raise leaked. No doubt the Google grandees who created the confidential internal email to the company's 23,000 full and part-time employees knew that the good news would be hard for such a large number of people to keep to themselves. One person did not, and he was fired.
The leaked email, posted in part on The Huffington Post (and many, many other news sources), states clearly it is for internal use only. However, thanks to the former Google employee who leaked the memo, we all get to be a part of that "internal" audience. Whether this was a genuine leak, or whether Google knew it would be leaked and would give them a PR boost, is a question raised by The Huffington Post.
Another question that should be asked here is how did this person become not just the only Google employee not to get a raise, but to be fired? Sharing information that is clearly marked "confidential" seems to be obvious grounds for dismissal, but since this intelligent person did not think about it, or thought he or she could get away with it, the issue bears repeating.
Information leaks bedevil everyone from the White House on down. Remember the "leak" of the new iPhone 4 when a young engineer accidentally left it in a bar back in April of this year? That episode led to the search and seizure of computers from a journalist's home, reams of media speculation and criminal charges. Not all breaches of confidentiality are criminal, but nearly all can have employment and even civil law repercussions.
Breaches of confidentiality that are protected by law are more serious, like those based on attorney/client privilege or doctor/patient confidentiality laws. However, any employee with fails in his clear duty to keep information confidential is in violation of, at minimum, company rules and, at maximum, looking at civil damages for lost profits. He could even face criminal charges of theft of property, intellectual property or trade secrets.
Let's end on a lighter note. In its report on the story, Wired passed on a few friendly tips for those employees who, law and job be damned, just have to be the source of a leaked memo. Bottom line: if you are going to leak a story, use your head. Per Wired, do cut and paste; do confirm there are others with the means and motive to leak; don't use your work email account or your main home account; don't use your employer's computers or network. The biggest don't, which it sure seems this Googler forgot: never let it leak that you where the one who leaked.
- Google Fires Worker Who Leaked Memo About Raises (AoLNews)
- Can Bloggers Invoke the Journalist's Privilege to Protect Confidential Sources Who Leak Trade Secrets? (FindLaw's Writ)
- Hold the iPhone: Did Blog Break the Law in iLeak? (FindlLaw's Blotter)