When a company screws up, who takes responsibility? The CEO? The Board of Directors? The manager or team in charge of the problem that went south? Volkswagen’s emissions scandal brought major fines and jail terms for a number of VW executives. If Apple defied the F.B.I. and a court order to unlock an iPhone, could Tim Cook go to jail?
The scenario that comes to mind is the most obvious; a court order or governmental directive to Apple to open a customers device; iPhone, iPad, Mac. I bring it up because, as Senator Mitt Romney said while campaigning for President in 2012, “Corporations are people, my friend.” At least, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) seems to think that corporations have similar rights to average citizens.
SCOTUS seems to think that rights and responsibilities that you and I have also apply to corporations, which, of course, are made up of people. If so, could a corporation be put in jail for crimes? Probably not, but executives or employees can be jailed for personal crimes, as in the case of Volkswagen’s executives and engineers who hid the company’s emissions problems for years.
c|net asked the question:
Would Facebook get any better if we fined Mark Zuckerberg for fake news?
A fine? Probably not. Facebook and Zuckerberg have so much money that any imposed fine would be trivial and any fine that stuck would end up in court for years. Criminal charges for executives who manage Facebook– Zuckerberg included– might get the company to change policies.
So, allow me a similar scenario for Apple.
What if the U.S. government, or any government in a country where Apple does a healthy business, demands that the company allow unfettered access to customer accounts and data? And, what if Apple– ostensibly under CEO Tim Cook’s direction– responded negatively.
If a corporate crime is committed, who goes to jail?
Does Tim Cook believe so much in privacy and security that he is willing to risk the company and its reputation to uphold and withhold customer information from authorities?
I don’t think so.
Everything I see about all corporate executives is simple. The might talk the talk, but walking the walk is a different matter. For example, Apple, via Tim Cook and other executives, talk the talk of privacy. Yet, Apple accepts many billions of dollars a year from Google– easily the internet’s worst privacy offender– to keep the search engine as the default on Safari.
Pragmatism rules. Money talks. Privacy sits in the back of the bus.