The decisions made by the Yahoo management raise ethical concerns on the utilization of clients information to advance the interests of the business. The decision to divulge Shi Tao email account to the Chinese authorities amounted to the violation of customer rights and total disregard of the code of ethics that govern the decision-making processes among the employees of the organization. According to Yahoo, it aspired to protect the rights of its customers and spelled out in its statements to protect its values and principles that promote freedom of expression. Ethics are standards of widely used to judge the correctness or wrongness of decisions. These benchmarks are meant to ensure that the various decisions made by those in leadership do not harm other stakeholders. In a business context, decision -makers are expected to adhere to the professional and organizational ethics meant to protect the interests of stakeholders, including those of its clients ((Mosley, Pietri & Mosley, 2014). In Shi Taos case, the manager who revealed the information to the government agencies was well aware of the consequences of its use by the repressive state machinery. Notably, there was evidence of the brutal crackdown on individuals with divergent views in the country, yet the employee did not take due diligence to safeguard the interests of the journalist. Also, the Yahoo management did not communicate to Shi Tao of its decision to hand over his email account information to the Chinese authorities.
The action of the Yahoo management also amounts to misuse of customer information to gain an advantage. The ethical standards of the organization do not allow the use of clients information to access advantageous business conditions. The case is a quintessential example where business firms disregard the rights of the clients for favorable operating business environment. For one, the Yahoo management was privy to the human rights violations in the Chinese society. In this respect, the organization was playing a part in aiding the Chinese government to perpetrate censorship and other forms of suppression. Also, the company signed agreements with the Chinese government while aware that these engagements were meant to regulate the production and dissemination of information in the country ("Race to the Bottom": Corporate Complicity in Chinese Internet Censorship: II. How Censorship Works in China: A Brief Overview," n.d.). Paradoxically, the core business of the Yahoo was to facilitate the dissemination of information to its clients. These actions go against the fundamental principles and values upon which the company was founded. The Tao incident amounts to misuse of information as it depicts Yahoo as an institution that gives prominence to business opportunities at the expense of the safety and privacy rights of its customers.
The management of Yahoo should have paid more attention to the consequences of its decision to hand over the email account information to the authorities. They should have engaged the government on the need to respect the privacy rights and freedoms of its customers. Only the companys staff has the privilege to access the client databases and therefore in a position to provide sensitive information about customers. And since the leadership was aware that the information would be used to harm the customer, it should have employed delaying tactics as they waited for further legal advice from the headquarters in the US. In any case, the Chinese government would not order the closure of Yahoos business because of hesitation or delay to provide private information about particular clients. Yahoo should have challenged these government practices in the context of internet privacy. Also, proper communication should have been done to Shi Tao about the document from the government requiring the company to surrender his email account information. This way, he would have positioned himself adequately against the government agencies and legal consequences of the disclosure as he was well acquainted with the government crackdown on freedom of expression in the country. Although Tao signed the terms of service that included Yahoos obligation to provide government officers with personal information, the anticipated consequences on him as a Yahoo customer were enough reason to exercise discretion while cooperating with the government agents (Cross, Miller, & Cross, 2009)
Political differences between China and the US present several challenges to the American companies operating in China. Internet companies such as Yahoo are expected to comply with a raft of telecommunication requirements from the state agencies to be given favorable operating environment in the country. Unlike in the United States where freedom of expression and privacy rights are given great attention from both the government and Internet companies, China does not respect these rights and often censors information on the web. The political class influences the legislation, playing a big part in propagating censorship that saw the decline of Yahoos business in China as a result of image damage. The company was required to sign self-censorship documents in the name of state security and political stability. This political environment presented Yahoo with a delicate balancing act that resulted in the decline of business in the country to the advantage of local firms. Also, support for local enterprises from the government enabled Chinese telecommunication companies to flourish at the expense of Yahoo and other foreign firms. For instance, Baidus explosive growth was a result of its cooperative relationship with the government. The company allowed full government control of its sites, enabling it to operate in a favorable business environment. For Yahoo, juggling between the political climate and the fundamental values of the organization presents a complicated scenario for business expansion ("Yahoo! in China - Background | Amnesty International USA," n.d.)
The variations in culture present a challenging environment for the operation of Yahoo in China. The Chinese populace supports the censorship of information as a way of fostering national stability and protecting the values of the Chinese society. The Chinese public most favors censorship of pornography and other Western cultural practices. In essence, there is little concern for the rights of free speech and unrestricted access to information. These cultural persuasions present challenges to Yahoo as they do not represent the business values and traditions of the company within the Western context. Additionally, the Chinese population favors the local firms as they are deemed to represent the values of the Chinese people despite the open government interference. Moreover, Chinese internet companies have a culture to that allows a lot of government regulation. Their primary interest is to grow business, and the issues surrounding government access to the operation sites do not concern them because such censorship practices help in promoting the interests of the companies in the country ("Yahoo! in China - Background | Amnesty International USA," n.d.)
Cross, F. B., Miller, R. L., & Cross, F. B. (2009). The legal environment of business: Text and cases : ethical, regulatory, global, and e-commerce issues. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Mosley, D. C., Mosley, D. C., & Pietri, P. H. (20014). Supervisory management: The art of inspiring, empowering, and developing people. Princeton, NJ: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
"Race to the Bottom": Corporate Complicity in Chinese Internet Censorship: II. How Censorship Works in China: A Brief Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/reports/2006/china0806/5.htm
Yahoo! in China - Background | Amnesty International USA. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/china/yahoo-in-china-background
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