Privacy is dead. Video cameras are everywhere, documenting where we work, play, and even live. Parking enforcement officers are using video captures of license plates to ensure we don't overstay our welcome on Seattle streets. Audio recordings are made when we least expect them - just watch this report about how cell phone can be used by prying stalkers.
I have even encountered the Facebook photo phenomenon: a friend since childhood has incriminating pictures of me that date back to my awkward tween days. When she posts them on Facebook, the only control that I have is to untag my name from the photo. It's okay, Cindy! But others are experiencing the collection and sharing of their personal data with an irreverence and lack of privacy that we have never seen before.
Does this mean that our moral boundaries are being ripped down? Not really. I think it's a call to integrity. As more of our individual lives get exposed in permanent online channels, it forces us to live our lives more honestly and openly. Today, you don't have to be a celebrity or a politician like Michael Vick, Elliot Spitzer or Mark Sanford to find yourself exposed. It's high time we matched our actions with our proclaimed principles.
This is true for businesses as well as individuals. Your integrity means everything when building relationships with your customers, your employees, and your community. A disconnect between your company's values and its actions can cause confusion and destroy trust. For example, I have worked with a company that claimed a philosophy of respect and collaboration. When it came time to work together to help them build their business, their tone was condescending, heirarchial, and dictatorial. There was little collaboration between our team and theirs, and even less collaboration between their senior management and their employees.
Another example would be the greenwashing that some companies employ in their marketing and communications. Environmental practices and policies are becoming increasingly important to consumers and business customers. Some companies use claim a commitment to green practices, yet only demonstrate them in shallow ways. A regional grocery store chain in South Carolina labels its whole uncooked chickens as "All Natural" and "Free of Any Hormones*". The asterisk then continues to explain that the chicken actually contain hormones, just none that are "known to cause harm in humans." An "all natural" chicken does not include added hormones. Adding the asterisk and the fine print is an example of greenwashing in an attempt for the company to look more environmentally friendly.
When reviewing your policies and practices, remember that information is easily accessible and privacy is dead. You never know when someone is about to read your deeply personal emails aloud on CNN. Integrity is when what you do when no one is looking matches what you say. If you can be consistent and demonstrate integrity, you can walk confidently through your day, cameras or not.
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