There are two words, which as a public relations student, I have heard consistently throughout my education: ethics and transparency (In addition to many others, as you may have imagined). This week some major players in the media were subjects of discussion in both ethics and transparency. Google, celebrities, Twitter and the U.S. government are all getting tangled in serious lawsuit threats over ethical dilemmas.
Twitter vs. the United States Government
Yesterday, Twitter announced a lawsuit against the U.S. government. Twitter, in an effort to be transparent for its customers, is in a tiff with the government. The government requires Twitter, as a large source of user data, to turn over information about users when it sees fit. Twitter complies with these requests. Twitter, in return, wants to be transparent about these requests (or at least have the government be transparent about them) with its users. The government said no, now there is a lawsuit on the table.
Celebrity lawyers vs. Google
In recent months, a number of nude photos of celebrities were released to the public after an alleged hacking of Apple’s iCloud system. Celebrities who made the list were starlets such as, Meagan Good, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton as well as a number of others. After Apple denied fault in iCloud, celebrity lawyers have turned to place blame upon Google for linking to these photos.
In both stories there is an element of transparency missing. In the Twitter case a lack of transparency for users. In Google’s case a lack of transparency in the truth behind the leak.
In public relations it is an asset to make sure clients remain transparent in order to establish relationships and instill trust in their brand. Twitter’s effort to display care for transparency provides users with a trust in Twitter they may not have realized otherwise. Additionally, Twitter’s push for transparency may be infectious and inspire other social media sites to request the government inform users of its interest in his or her personal information.
As a professional whose role is directly involved with the media, ethics is an important topic of conversation. In both of these cases one can argue for or against the parties filing the lawsuit. There is an element in each of us that focuses upon the human portion of ethics. The thought of “What if it were me,” comes to mind, but what is important to remember, and often gets forgotten, is the professional aspect.
Google’s run-in with lawyers may inspire media providers or even search engines like themselves to think like humans before allowing professional decisions to take place.
Was it ethical for Google, as a major source for the spread of information, to share the celebrities’ nude photos? Was it ethical for celebrities, as role models, to take these photos, or not dispose of them properly?
Is it ethical for the United States to keep information about the users whom they are gathering data about? Is it ethical for Twitter to ask the government to share that information with?
The questions will continue, but the answers vary from professional to professional.
What do you think? Comment below.