Wednesday, February 20, 2008

1st Amendment versus Confidentiality

A decision last week by a San Francisco-based federal judge to order the shuttering of presents an interesting dilemma for public relations professionals.

The Internet and other forms of electronic communications (i.e. e-newsletters, email, personalized social networks, blogs, etc.) is an effective channel to target, message and engage key audiences -- including customers, partners, employees and investors. Yet, if we view the Internet as communications and collaboration platform we then must assume the First Amendment rights provided to traditional news media also apply.

The other side of the argument is based on an expectation of confidentiality. As a PR representative for a number of publicly traded companies, I take the non-disclosure agreements we enter into very seriously. They establish a baseline of trust that affords us access to our client’s senior management. Violation of confidentiality by an insider or external consulting firm is simply inexcusable.

This is a tough issue and I’m torn. What do you think?

Judge Orders Wikileaks Web Site Shut
New York Times

The closing of, which invites people to post confidential material, presents a First Amendment test.


Chris Parente said...

Marc -- very provocative question. At a conceptual level, absolute transparency is very attractive. On the other hand, every company (and in fact every individual) has information they consider proprietary. Who decides what gets disclosed -- Wikileaks?

Per the NYT article, the gulf shown between the order and how the Internet operates tells me that litigation alone will never be a remedy for online disclosure of confidential information.

Anarchology said...

The Freedom of Speech should never be regulated in my eyes. That is what is great about the United States, but it looks like day after day more of our freedoms are being taken away.

We shouldn't have any restrictions on information available to the public. You wouldn't see any censorship on our site, thats for damn sure!