Can moral "pigmies" and "police informants" attract the best and brightest talent?
Just in case you missed it, last week Yahoo! CEO Jerry Yang and its chief lawyer Michael Callahan were called to Washington DC to explain to lawmakers why Yahoo! helped the Chinese government arrest and then sentence for ten years two political dissidents.
Extracts from Zachary Coile's excellent news story for the San Francisco Chronicle:
"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies," House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, said at the end of the three-hour hearing.
. . .
The hearing began with Yang, who immigrated from Taiwan at age 10, entering the hearing room and bowing and apologizing to the mother of journalist Shi Tao and the wife of Internet writer Wang Xiaoning. They received 10-year sentences after being identified with the help of information from Yahoo.
The act wasn't enough for Lantos. He called on Yang and Yahoo chief counsel Michael Callahan to turn and face the dissidents' families, seated in the front row, and plead for forgiveness.
"I would urge you to beg the forgiveness of the mother whose son is languishing behind bars thanks to Yahoo's actions," Lantos said. Shi's mother, Gao Qin Shen, had tears in her eyes as the two executives complied.
[That would have made for a great clip on YouTube.]
Shi's crime was to forward a directive from the Chinese censor that journalists must not write about the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests.
In addition to moral pigmies, Yahoo! has been called a police informant by Reporters Without Borders.
Yahoo!'s hiring crisis
Competition in Silicon Valley for top talent has become intense. How is Yahoo! going to stay competitive? Especially since there is close attention paid to a company's ethics and social responsibility among all hires.
Yahoo!'s engineers must already find it difficult to continue their genetic line. Turn up at a party and what do you say?
[Googlers should be careful too, the do no evil giant has been doing its share of informing on its users.]
And as for Yahoo!'s defense that it was just complying with local laws? I've pointed out an easy solution several times before: launder the data. Send it to an offshore banking center such as the Caymans Islands, which has strong privacy laws, use a third party service to strip out all identifiable data and then return it in the form of high quality behavioral data. It is the aggregate behavioral data that Yahoo! wants. Then when the policeman comes a-knocking the data isn't going to finger anyone.