Executives from Yahoo faced a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing for providing false information relating to the company's role in disclosing a former journalist's identity that led to his arrest.
In clear cut language, committee chairman, Tom Lantos, lambasted Yahoo General Counsel, Michael Callahan, with "inexcusably negligent behavior at best, and deliberately deceptive behavior at worst." Information revealed by Yahoo China was instrumental in the arrest of former journalist Shi Tao by the Chinese Government for advocating a democratic change in China over e-mail.
Yahoo had no means or, possibly, intent, to prevent Yahoo China from being a willing participant in political witch-hunts emanating from Beijing. Yahoo Inc. had no American lawyers in Beijing. There was no mechanism in place for Yahoo headquarters to review Chinese efforts to ferret out individuals who wish to see a more open and democratic China.
It should be self-evident that companies cannot get away with providing false information to Congress. So today, I call on Yahoo's top corporate executives to apologize to this Committee, the Congress of the United States, and the American people.
While there are several measures being devised to prevent companies from revealing information on individuals except when it is for legitimate law-enforcement, is the Yahoo issue justified as an act of compliance for business?
China is complex business territory, but is that an excuse for blatant violation of user privacy? I believe this question holds for all technology giants focused on the Chinese demographics alone.
Congressional panel blasts Yahoo! execs on China record (Seattle Times)