Owens says let business be business
Howard Owens, whose day job is innovations chief (my shorthand because I like the title) at California's Ventura County Star, writes on his site that Apple should have the ability to find out who is leaking its secret information to the bloggers who are posting it. Nondisclosure agreements are contracts that should be enforced, he says.
There is a certain journalistic hubris that equates the need for open government with full disclosure by private enterprise. The two do not equate. We are the government, and the people have a right to know everything about its government. Businesses are sovereign, even publicly traded companies. They have a right to keep secrets, just as any private individual has a right to keep secrets.This is where Owens and I part. We wouldn't if, indeed, business were truly sovereign in this county. Oh, for such a refreshing development! The problem is that business and government are inextricably intertwined in America -- and that's even before the move toward privatization afoot across the land. The more business gets into government's pocket and vice versa, the less this argument holds. Now, in Apple's specific case, the intertwining may well be minimal. But the problem is that the judicial system, once a precedent is set, tends to give stare decisis more weight than looking at each case individually. And that is why this concerns me -- the precedent that can be set here could have wide-ranging effects.
(And just a thought: What if that prison medical company that was trying to cover up deaths had a nondisclosure agreement? Would we logically argue the same thing? After all, it's a "sovereign" business.)