2011-01-20 Three reasons why WikiLeaks is dangerous to corporations

Corporations are being pressured to behave more ethically and transparently as a result of the increasing influence of Julian Assange's scientific journalistic enterprise, WikLeaks. Public relations professionals in Germany say that trying to sit out the storm is no longer a strategy for success in a post-cablegate world.

In the wake of the removal of Galileo CEO Berry Smutny and Rudolph Elmer's handover of banking data to Wikileaks, the German public relations portal PR Professional defines three reasons why WikiLeaks is dangerous for corporations, and advises them on how to avoid coming into difficulties resulting from potentially damaging disclosures.

According to Jörg Forthmann of Faktenkontor, WikiLeaks is dangerous to corporations because:

1. Until now, it has not been proven that WikiLeaks has published any falsified information acquired from its sources, and journalists are becoming less and less critical of the validity of WikiLeaks sourced documents. Therefore, press officers have little chance to deflect the crisis through lies or claims challenging a misuse of facts. Whoever tries that end up being outed as a liar.

2. WikiLeaks is clever enough not to interpret the documents itself, and leaves that job up to the media. In this manner, WikiLeaks remains "clean". An attack on WikiLeaks has no chance because WikiLeaks has become sacrosanct in the eyes of many important journalists and a broad segment of the public. WikiLeaks publishes - according to public opinion - only that which has been swept under the carpet to hide it from public view.

3. Although WikiLeaks' is a challenge enough on its own, the collaboration with opinion leading media partners secures its disclosures strong publicity. Large media organizations are fighting for exclusive access to any breadcrumbs of potentially damaging information from WikiLeaks original source data, guaranteeing increase in circulation; this determines the media's participation in the denunciation and damage to targeted individuals or corporations.

Corporations are therefore well advised to behave preventatively:

Whoever doesn't value ethical behavior towards their workers, customers, suppliers, partners and so on, are taking the risk of being publicly branded and embarrassed. Businesses should learn from the mistakes of the U.S. government, and institute IT policies restricting access to sensitive documents.The outsourcing of data storage and applications to the Cloud increases the danger of non-authorized access to data. Employees being released should be encouraged to not denounce the company upon their termination. Finally. public relations departments should prepare themselves to be challenged with compromising data which will be released through leak portals. In this situation there are few options to reduce the damage. Be proactive, consequent,and build allies; trying to sit out the storm won't work anymore.