Companies complicit in government abuses

In a series of blog posts, we will be looking at the relationship between private companies and governments.

During the last year, we have seen a number of reports about companies that are accused to be highly complicit in government abuses of power, for example:

  • Government contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, which is part of the Carlyle Group. They have even been described as the Face of Evil.
  • Internet infrastructure providers, such as Cisco. One might have guessed before that this US-based company had helped the US government to spy, but now it seems they have even helped the Chinese government.
  • Well-known software companies, including Microsoft, which seem to have betrayed the trust of their users.

At the same time, companies like these claim to work by high ethical standards. As Cisco puts it in Ethics@Cisco:

A strong commitment to ethics is critical to our long-term success as a company. The message for each employee is clear: any success that is not achieved ethically is no success at all. At Cisco, we hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards, and we will not tolerate anything less.

Something is obviously wrong here. How can a company be working to the highest ethical standards and at the same time have a court case against them for actively marketing, selling and supporting technologies for human rights abuses?

Unfortunately, it seems that too many companies are following the example set by governments: To lie.