Before discussing whistleblowing and its pros and cons, it is necessary to clearly define it. So, whistleblowing is a process of disclosing confidential information to the society. In many cases, confidential information is related to crimes against society, secrets related to the country’s political interests, and even violations of safety rules and various hazards in the workplace. Apparently, in some cases, whistleblowing can be justified. In contrast, in others, it creates certain threats to society country’s interests and demoralizes employees and teams.
While discussing whether whistleblowing is ethical, it is necessary to analyze different codes of ethics protecting confidential information. For instance, the APA code of ethics claims that the confidentiality of clients is highly important. However, it can be violated in the case when a client wants to commit a crime that puts his life or the life of others in danger (APA, 2010). So, as it can be seen, whistleblowing can be considered ethical if it helps prevent or stop criminals, save people’s lives, or protect society.
Positive Examples of Whistleblowing
There are numerous examples of whistleblowers who made the lives of people better. For instance, Bunny Greenhouse, who raised concerns over the contracts awarded to a Halliburton oil subsidiary, has lost her career; however, she made the public aware that the government spent money improperly (National Whistleblowers Center, 2009). Another example of a whistleblower who was a hero is Daniel Ellsberg.
He got access to the documents showing that the government knew that the war in Vietnam was likely not to be won. Moreover, these documents showed that the government had lied to the public about the course of the war in Vietnam (HowStuffWorks, 2011). Hence, some whistleblowers can be considered heroes who disclose information that the government or huge corporations want to hide because this information is harmful to their reputation.
Negative Effects of Whistleblowing
From another point of view, some whistleblowers cause huge harm to the government’s interests. One of the most controversial whistleblowers is Edward Snowden. As everyone knows, he said that the NSA constantly violates the privacy of United States citizens (Kevin M. Gallagher, 2013). Of course, this violates the basic principles of democracy. However, this surveillance wasn’t purposeless. NSA tracked the activity of terrorists and criminals.
When Snowden blew a whistle, many terrorists and criminals became aware of this. Instead of Facebook, they use Telegram and other highly secure applications; hence, venting crimes and terrorist attacks is more difficult than before. Hence, while his act of whistleblowing was ideologically right from the point of view of democracy, it caused certain negative consequences that people often ignore or forget about because personal privacy is highly important for every person. There were also numerous whistleblowers during the Cold War who shared United States secrets with the USSR. Their aim was not to stop a crime or to avoid harm that could be done to the public but to help the USSR win the Cold War. So, whether whistleblowing is good or bad depends on the circumstances and particular scenario.
American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Retrieved from http://apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx
National Whistleblowers Center. (2009, July 30). Support Employee Whistleblowers. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIcxyfRrfWQ
HowStuffWorks. (2011, June 13). Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – Whistleblowers: Part 1. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzcAsJ7nB04
Kevin M. Gallagher. (2013, June 9). NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things.’ [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yB3n9fu-rM