December 02, 2010, 12:05 PM — As if WikiLeaks hasn't created enough enemies by leaking revelatory and sometimes incriminating documents on American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, now it's threatening similar dish on Bank of America and is encouraging cube-rodents nationwide to open up their hard drives and fess up to their own companies' evil (or just prurient) deeds.
Like many journalists, I'm generally a fan of any kind of whistleblower -- the more we know about the behavior of our own government and the corporations that sometimes serve and sometimes oppress us, the closer to the straight and narrow everyone involved tends to stay.
There are limits, though, especially if it's your job to make sure the data in your company stays safe rather being squirted through the firewall or carried out on phones or flash drives by corporate malcontents, WikiLeaks is an object lesson: lock down your data, your email and your collections of open, collaborative, unstructured discussions about acquisitions, sales strategies, analysis of competitors and industry gossip.
Except for a few pieces of critical customer data, legal or financial documents, or discussions specifically related to things that could cause the stock price to tank, most companies don't put a high priority on internally generated information.
As Cablegate shows, though, those informal, evaluative, sometimes chatty communications between colleagues, or from employee to manager -- which may or may not reflect the real policy involved -- can be a disaster if they're revealed.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Forbes he had a megaleak ready to be relased about a big bank, but wouldn't name the bank. Last year he told Computerworld he had several gigs worth of data from a BofA exec's hard drive.
How embarrassing or financially disastrous could that be to your company? It almost doesn't matter which executive it is, either. Data from the ones who are most plugged in with the CEO would be the most accurate, but the outliers and has-beens could have an awful lot of data and speculation stored as text that could be taken as truth and be even more damaging.