Booz Allen Hamilton – Snowden

Reporting of the Snowden/NSA case has focused on the wild goose chase for Snowden himself.

But what about the reputational impact upon Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s employer, and Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple – all of whom are in the spotlight for allegedly allowing access to users’ data through the US government PRISM programme.

Edward Snowden

Big mole

In Booz Allen’s case they saw it coming.

Take this from their annual SEC filing for 2012/13:

“We depend on contracts with U.S. government agencies for substantially all of our revenue. If our relationships with such agencies are harmed, our future revenue and operating profits would decline.”

And this:

“Our professional reputation is critical to our business, and any harm to our reputation could decrease the amount of business the U.S. government does with us, which could have a material adverse effect on our future revenue and growth prospects.”

And this:

“Our employees or subcontractors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, which could harm our ability to conduct business with the U.S. government.”

And this:

“Internal system or service failures, including as a result of cyber or other security threats, could disrupt our business and impair our ability to effectively provide our services to our clients, which could damage our reputation and have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.”

All of which looks spookily prescient.

The conclusion one would hope to draw from this is:

  • Booz Allen Hamilton has robust reputation risk identification processes in place
  • They have active internal controls to pre-empt these sort of occurrences
  • The Snowden case is a one-off / ‘rogue employee’ rather than an ingrained problem with the culture of the organisation

We will see.

But it’s also worth noting that Snowden is 30 years old (his birthday was 2 weeks ago).

He is what demographers call a Millenial’ or Generation Y-er.

Compared to previous generations Gen-Y-ers tend to be more idealistic, more cynical and questioning, less loyal, and less accepting of all forms of authority. And they are also the generation with the knowledge and skills most in demand in the digital age.

Time for some real work on the implications of Generation-Y attitudes in the workplace, and the potential reputational risks posed to employers.

[Photograph: Guardian]

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