On Monday I blogged about the latest Facebook data breach and how that affects the entire marketing industry and how we interact with our customers and prospects. I was greeted by yet another story about a data breach today. This one involving Google and it’s decision to shut down it’s G+ product.
As I read the articles on this decision, there was one fact that really stood out about this incident. Between 2015 to March of 2018, a glitch in their G+ product potentially exposed the personal information of over 500,000 Google users. When they fixed the issue in March of 2018, the technology Goliath didn’t disclose the breach because they feared it would invite regulatory scrutiny from legislators and even the President of Google knew about this non-disclosure strategy. There is another word for what they did – cover-up.
Business ethics is defined as proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities. Essentially, it means corporations have a moral imperative to act in an ethical manner and make sure it’s decisions are good for the world as a whole, not just their share holders.
So, let me repeat why Google didn’t disclose the breach – fear of regulatory scrutiny from lawmakers. Sure sounds a lot like they weren’t looking out for the 500,000 customers affected by this breach and were in full CYA mode, with even their President knowing it was going to be swept under the rug. It’s like a kid spilling milk on the rug and throwing a pillow over it to cover it up. What it is in truth – is just plain wrong and a complete lack of Corporate Responsibility to the general public.
I had two reactions to this story – one as a marketing professional and entrepreneur and one as a consumer.
As a marketing professional and start-up firm, it was one of visceral anger. Google, as a leader in both the technology and marketing industries, has to be better than this. They are the examples that consumers look at when evaluating medium to small marketing or technology firms. In essence, their behavior, whether they like it or not, has a direct effect on our entire industry(social responsibility). When they show a lack of business ethics and corporate responsibility, it undermines consumer faith in the entire industry. Why would a prospect trust a small marketing firm when one of the global leaders just tried to hide the fact the 500M users data may have been compromised?
The concept of business ethics includes corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibility. The word Responsibility appears twice there – responsible to society as a whole, as well as responsible to their clients and users. Their actions show anything but responsibility. In light of Google and Facebook having these issues – it makes the job of people like myself and fellow marketing professional even more difficult. It’s disappointing to see such behavior and in our own business practices, it drives home why we must always act with the utmost business ethics. Social responsibility and fiduciary responsibility must emanate from our branding to our interactions with clients to the way we handle issues that arise in the course of business. We mustn’t cover it up – it is our duty to investigate what happened and yes, if it’s our fault – accept the responsibility and consequences.
As a consumer, I am deeply concerned. Being a huge fan and user of Google products (gmail, Gsuite, analytics, adsense, adwords) – I share a lot of data with them – both personal and business. To see them act in such an unethical manner certainly concerns me and makes me wonder what type of people are running the company. If they are willing to attempt to cover-up a data breach, do I really want to share my location with them or my business details? If the leadership is immoral and corrupt, then the products themselves, created by these humans, must also have corruption. It makes the consumer in me weary of them as a company.
In closing, whether it is a personal relationship or business one, the Google breach highlights why ethics and social responsibility are the two most important commodities in the world. Be vigilant, dear readers and always act in ways that engender trust and respect from your colleagues and business partners. The old adage once trust is broken, it can never be regained – is true.