Globalized Corporate Social Responsibility – Sharing of Private Information with Government Sources

The June 12, 2013 USA Today article titled “NSA snooping: Google seeks OK to reveal more — as do Yahoo, Facebook” written by Michael Auslen, is about how Google is dealing with the United States government’s demand of data concerning their users.

In an effort to secure trust with users, Google wants the public to be made aware of what data is being disclosed to the government. By allowing user awareness through transparency, Google, a giant in the technological communication industry, is positioning itself into an “Edward Snowden like” reveal of the US government’s harvesting of user data. One could say that Google is overriding the “big brother” conspiracy brought on by the NSA. On the other hand, however, the underlying question of the disclosure of user data to the United States government might have significant repercussions to national security both locally and abroad.

Bondy and Starkey (2014) address the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR), where global corporations, who are headquartered abroad, align their ethical, social, and philanthropic practices in accordance with the location of their respective headquarters, as opposed to considering the ethical clashes of their subsidiaries abroad. However, in Google’s case, with their headquarters located in Mountain View, CA, the disclosing of personal data of all their users with or without permission could inevitably bring major consequences to national security and the security of allies abroad. Is it possible to disclose “tailored” information to local users to what Bondy and Starkey (2014) describe as “the tastes and regulations of local markets, responding to the needs of the market [as well as] creating opportunities for expansion within” without consequence (p. 5)?

Auslen’s (2013) article notes that the United States government’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is governed by a “secret court” that has the authority to either grant or override Google’s request for this type of transparency. This also raises the question of whether the United States government’s actions for this type of data harvesting and data mapping are deemed as “unethical” in light of the invasion of privacy of its population. Why would this type of espionage by a government be considered socially responsive in protecting national security? On the other hand, this same scenario would be classified as unethical if a multinational corporate conglomerate committed this type of behavior in the name of monetary gain. This raises another question: what kinds of kick-backs or other incentives is Google receiving from the government for providing this type of information?

What are your thoughts?


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