Re: Whistleblowing? (was Re: [asa] Hadley files stolen and published on the internet...)

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Mon Nov 23 2009 - 17:14:41 EST

I have no quarrel with Murray's definition of "whistleblowing" as coming
from someone inside an organization, but two points:

1. Is it 100% certain in this case that the "hackers" had no inside help?

2. Suppose we don't call this hacking "whistleblowing". Why couldn't it be
seen as the same from the ethical point of view? Suppose, for example, that
an employee of an investment firm discovers some "insider trading" going on,
and reports it. I gather that Murray would consider this virtuous, and
praise it. But what if some outsider discovers the "insider trading" and
reports it? Is he not doing just a great a public service as the insider
is? Whether we call it "whistleblowing" or something else, doesn't it serve
the same public good -- informing the public of exactly the same acts of
dishonesty by exactly the same people?

As for a point raised by others, I grant this much: It may have been
inappropriate for the hackers to spread the information all over the
internet as the very first course of action. Perhaps the proper course
would have been for the hackers to write to a number of international
bodies, indicating that they had come into possession (by unspecified means)
of information indicating that some global warming data had been tampered
with to produce a particular result, and wished to pursue ways of
communicating this information to the appropriate authorities.

My problem with Keith's original post is that, even if the hackers had not
posted the information on the internet, but had contacted the authorities
with the information, his principles would seem to require the authorities
to turn a blind eye to the information, no matter how true it was, no matter
how important it was to the economic and political decisions of all the
major nations of the world for the next several years. I wonder how broadly
he would apply this ethical principle. If someone discovers a terrorist
plot to blow up the White House by illegally hacking into a corporation's
computer, and puts the details of the plot on the internet, are the
authorities morally bound to ignore the information and let the White House
be blown up? Or is it ethically right to prevent great national harm
proceeding from acts of violence (such as murder and terrorism) by employing
illegally obtained information, but not to prevent great national harm
proceeding from scientific dishonesty by employing illegally obtained
information? When are authorities required to turn a blind eye, and when
are they not?


----- Original Message -----
From: "Murray Hogg" <>
To: "ASA" <>
Sent: Monday, November 23, 2009 3:08 PM
Subject: Whistleblowing? (was Re: [asa] Hadley files stolen and published on
the internet...)

> We interrupt your programming to bring you the following community service
> announcement...
> "Whistleblowing" is when somebody from INSIDE an organization - a person
> fully appraised of the entire picture - comes out and says "the truth is
> THIS" and then proceeds to lay bare the questionable behaviours which
> occur inside an organization.
> "Hacking" is when somebody from OUTSIDE an organization - a person not
> fully appraised of the entire picture - goes in and makes public
> information which is necessarily divorced from the organizational context.
> The "activity" in question can be described using one of these terms, but
> not both - which might assist in clarifying where the ethical boundary
> lies.
> We apologize for this interruption, and return you to your regular
> programming...
> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.

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Received on Mon Nov 23 17:15:15 2009

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