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"You have Zero Privacy Anyway, Get Over it"

By SiliconIndia  |   Thursday, 03 November 2011, 01:08 Hrs
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Fremont: Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Mircosystems, once quoted "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." The public has always been fascinated by the lives of the top executives: what do they do, what do they read, where do they holiday, how much do they spend on luxuries. Does it have an end? No. Media goes crazy to get a top secret detail about any of the celebrated executives, which can be splashed on the TV and the internet. Doesn't the personal life of the top executives deserve some privacy? Or does it have to be on display like a museum artifact?

The trend was triggered by the founder of the company which is making waves everywhere-Apple; when Steve Jobs decided to keep details about his health to himself, it was dutifully observed by his company; the details became public only after his death. The insider information about the captains of the companies have a direct binding on the price of the stocks of the companies. For example, when the Enron scandal came to limelight, the shareholders lost nearly $11 billion, for stocks which had hit a high of $90 per share in the mid-2000, leading the shares to fall to less that $1 by the end of November 2001. The announcement of Steve Jobs' last leave led to the Apple's stock plummeting by eight percent in the international markets and later by two percent again.

There has been an outcry about the salary packages of the CEOs and the lavish lifestyle they divulge in. People feel disclosing the behind-the-door information about the top execs would help them analyze the CEOs ability to lead the company, apart from making the company fully transparent in the eyes of the shareholders. With the storming social networks, many of the influential people have tried to make their presence felt on them, but many of the top Google execs shut off access to the list of people they follow. This just proves their need to keep their personal lives to themselves.

An article posted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazatte, as early as 1962, tries to solve the dilemma of whether the top executives really need privacy, which states that the executive tension is closely linked with the isolation of the top executives from the fellow workers. It has also suggested that the top execs should operate with their top staff in a large room to ease tension and create a healthier team spirit.
Since the CEOs find themselves at the center of attention inside the corporations they work for, they stand as representatives to the outside world. The leadership role that they have is crazy and unavoidable, thus making them a constant feature in the spotlight. People tend to believe in the details provided as they find the source trustworthy and make them a scanner to the daily lives of the whos who of the in-news companies. The CEOs are expected to bring attention to their companies, which causes them to be featured in trustworthy newspapers, magazines and websites. But if a company releases information about its execs, should the private information still be considered as protected?

Though the Electronic Communications Privacy Act prohibits unauthorized access to and disclosure of electronic communications, it is during the public appearances that the top execs make that the media is always on the lookout to get some gossip about them. The privacy laws generally do not prevent corporate disclosure of personal information about the CEOs. The Americans With Disabilities Act prohibits the disclosure of health information related to the performance of the employee's jobs. This covers the CEOs also, disclosure of whose personal information makes the company liable to one of the several invasion-of-privacy torts. But the liability does not rise in case the disclosure is newsworthy. So can we define what is newsworthy? Is it the recent purchase of the luxury property by the Chairman of the Reliance Industries, or a private yacht bought by the founder of the Virgin Group? Is it the clubbing habits of the CEO of some social network? The gossip networks cover the tiniest details, splash it all over, and make a mountain out of a molehill.

So, the question in focus is where do we draw a line? Is it the CEOs who should draw a line between their personal and professional lives or is it the company's duty to protect the invasion of privacy? And if the company chooses to disclose the information, where to halt at? Are these top execs also trying to follow the footsteps of fame-thirsty celebrities with a desperate need to always be a part of the headlines, or should their time be devoted to something of higher priority to their companies? As long as the media feeds on the needs of the avid readers to know every single detail of the top honchos, their lives would not be spared of the misery. People should understand that even the top executives are normal human beings, who have lives beyond their roles as the leaders of the companies they work for, which should be respected and given space.

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