June 14, 2014
A sex tape is always intriguing.
In this case, my curiosity was aroused by a secretly-filmed alleged sex tape of the former China head of British drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and his girlfriend, which was sent to senior executives at GSK as a teaser for whistler-blower documents.
So I talked with Steven Feldman, professor of business ethics at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, about it.
He shared with me some anecdotes about hidden surveillance while doing business in China. For example, he say he knows one major American company that had an office in Shanghai. The board of directors of the company wanted to come over to Shanghai to have a board meeting. But the company’s China head was unable to get the electronic bugs out from his boardroom, because it’s illegal to own the equipment to search for electronic eavesdropping in China.
Another company said they had to be very careful when buying new buildings in China because a lot of the office buildings are filled with electronic eavesdropping bugs.
Finally, an executive of an American company sent a fax from his hotel in China to the U.S. to get advice on a business deal. Later, when he talked to his Chinese counterpart, surprisingly (or not), the Chinese already knew the content of the fax.
What can companies do to deal with this? They need to be very careful guarding their information. In the first example I gave, the company went ahead to have the board meeting with the knowledge that the meeting wasn’t private. They had side meetings with small groups of people later, where they would discuss (potentially sensitive) issues walking down the street or somewhere else.