New Frontiers in Whistleblower Suits

800px-Cyber_Security_at_the_Ministry_of_Defence_MOD_45153617Your San Francisco qui tam lawsuit and whistleblowers’ lawsuit attorney understands and appreciates the important role whistleblowers play in American society. Whistleblowers are instrumental in exposing fraud, waste, dangerous or hazardous conditions, and other instances of “bad behavior” that put people’s health and wellbeing in jeopardy or unreasonably threatens property or taxpayer money. Whistleblower actions and lawsuits have, for example:

  • Uncovered unsafe working conditions on job sites;
  • Exposed contaminants and dangerous chemicals present in the food and/or water supply;
  • Shed light on healthcare fraud and Medicaid fraud schemes that contribute to rising healthcare costs;
  • Disclosed illegal and/or unethical practices by companies designed to increase profits at the expense of their customers in particular as well as the public at large.

Cybersecurity seems to be the next frontier for the whistleblower. Recent events such as the hacking of emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee, those close to candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, retail chains like Target, and tech companies such as Yahoo! Have served to highlight (if nothing else) the importance for companies to take cybersecurity and data theft seriously. Whistleblowers will be the ones to expose whether they are taking cybersecurity as seriously as they ought to.

The Dangers of Data Breaches and Cyber-theft

It can be tempting to view data theft and breaches are more of an inconvenience than a true threat. As anyone who has had their identity stolen can tell you, however, data breaches and theft of personally-identifying information can be costly and time-consuming to address. Companies and agencies who are successfully targeted and breached by hackers also suffer a blow to their public reputation. As a result, these companies and agencies have an incentive to try and keep the fact that a data breach has occurred from the public for as long as possible.

The Effect of a Cybersecurity Whistleblower

When companies store information about their customers – names, addresses, and other such information – companies are generally required to take reasonable measures to protect that data from theft. The more sensitive the information, the more elaborate the measures that must be taken. Data security measures can be costly, though, and eat into the company’s profits.

When a company suffers a data breach and customer data is stolen, the public’s first perception of the situation might be that it was an unfortunate occurrence that resulted from hackers or data thieves that were simply more cunning than the company’s protective measures. However, in some cases the company may not have taken adequate measures to protect their customers’ data – or may not have taken any measures at all. Without a whistleblower who is familiar with the actions or inactions undertaken by the company or agency to protect consumers’ data, these entities could easily place profit above security. Just as whistleblowers help ensure government money is allocated and used properly and working conditions are safe, whistleblowers can help ensure government agencies and private companies alike take their responsibility to safeguard sensitive data seriously.

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Photo: Harland Quarrington/MOD