Wednesday, July 22, 2009

O'Brien: Corporate secrecy under the microscope after Twitter leaks


The publication of internal documents about Twitter that were filched by a hacker caused fans across Silicon Valley to express their outrage — before they hunkered down to read them.

For all the controversy, my own gut reaction after reading the notes and financial projections: "Is that it?" These were the great trade secrets that the valley fretted could undermine Twitter's future and send it plunging off a cliff? Hardly.

After covering Silicon Valley for more than a decade, I remain astounded by how companies of all sizes remain obsessed with secrecy. We live in an age of growing transparency. Yet companies are desperately pushing back against the information age they are enabling. Apparently, openness and sharing is good for everyone but them.

Let's be clear. Companies of any size, even large publicly traded companies, are required to share only the tiniest, thinnest bits of information about themselves. Anytime they are asked to make the slightest concession toward more disclosure, expect whining, followed by lobbying.

Twitter didn't ask to be hacked, and certainly didn't deserve it. But whatever internal anxieties it caused, the resulting revelations would hardly quicken anyone's pulse.


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