Why The News of the World Scandal Shouldn’t Surprise Us

It would be easy for me to suggest that the recent News of the World scandal has taught me nothing. That the world has already made me so cynical, cold, coarse even, that events like this simply don’t surprise me. I guess that’s true in a sense. Events like these, corporate media moguls and employees are exposed sticking their hands in other people’s private business in order to expose some sort of secret, or gain confidential information through illegal means, aren’t something that catch me off guard. The world is a cruel, unforgiving place. I’ve learned that much, at least.

But what this has taught me or, rather, further cemented in my mind, is that private, confidential information is only private and confidential if nobody is looking for it, as evidenced by the recent News of the World scandal. According to Gizmodo, hacking into the voicemail accounts of individuals is in fact a pretty simple endeavor. All it requires is a little savvy in computing technology by being able to remotely access someone’s voice mail account, then simply typing in the last 4-digits of someone’s phone number, assuming they haven’t changed their password.

And then that’s it. In just a few simple steps, the voicemails in the accounts of those 9/11 victims, murder victims and celebrities that News of the World hacked into are ready to be exploited for whatever juicy information the tabloid was hoping to extract from them.

But still, none of this should surprise us. In a world where scoops are the king, where timeliness and performance are the true motivating factors for many journalists, particularly for tabloids like News of the World, it’s therefore no surprise that such ruthless tactics would be employed in order to uncover a juicy secret that might catapult a journalist’s piece to the front of the tabloid and make headlines around the world. 

With that in mind, corporate culture hasn’t just suddenly jumped the shark either. Take the incident that occured at Foxconn last year, for example. In that case, several employees committed suicide in quick succession, between March and May of 2010, leading many to question the working conditions of the Foxconn factories in Shenzen, China. What undercover reporters found only helped to confirm suspicions that maybe working conditions were probably not ideal. But even then, a corporation harboring gross facilities with sweatshop-like conditions that could drive people to insanity– something that the world expected in light of the bout of suicides — Foxconn was not. It was simply a heavily revenue minded corporation hoping to get the most out of its employees. Even if that involved often excessive workloads.

Essentially, corporate cultures tend to expect more (and get more) from their employees because they also export more to their clients and their consumers. Unfortunately, instances like the Foxconn investigations and the News of the World scandal can often be a direct result. Corporations (and there are many) often push the envelope and cut corners in order to get the most out of their workers and the most out of their money.

None of this is new. Corporations have been doing this for years. But whether it’s BP’s oil spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico, or News of the World shutting down following the scandal, the fact remains that corporate cost-cutting will forever be an indelible part of the corporate culture for as long as money stands as the proverbial carrot on a stick.

Ultimately, how does this relate to technology and social media? Well, in most ways, it doesn’t. But it does show how even despite huge leaps in the way information is shared, electronics are produced and working conditions are improved upon, there almost always stands some room for improvement. Still, not all corporations are necessarily the evil provocateurs that we typically paint them to be. Take Netflix and their unlimited vacation days policy, for instance. Even so, some companies could certainly stand to clean up their act significantly.



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