Non-disclosure agreements, also known as NDAs, are everywhere in our culture. From politics to business, NDAs have aimed to protect reputations, sensitive information, and even corporations. But, in recent news, it has become clear that the common-place utilization of NDAs to sugarcoat the workplace is coming to an end. Suprisingly, this shift is making strides in Silicon Valley where Apple is reevaluating its use of confidentiality agreements and Governor of California Gavin Newsom recently signed the Silenced No More Act which prohibits using NDAs on employees who speak up against discrimination. After reading up on Google’s personnel matters just a few weeks ago, by a show of hands how many people here actually believe that Apple went out of its way to examine its information protection practices (Woo, 2021)?
For those of you who did not raise your hand, you would be correct: a woman named Ifemoda Ozoma who worked for Apple, Google, and most recently Pinterest has been the driving force for all of it. After enduring Pinterests culture, which Ms. Ozoma claims was riddled with sexism and racism, she left and was forced to sign an NDA. Meteorically, Ms. Ozoma became a towering figure in tech whistleblowing and worked with policy makers to adopt the Silenced No More Act after she came forward and broke the aforementioned NDA with Pinterest. Since then, she has supported other “tech activists” (Woo, 2021) and coded the Tech Worker Handbook website to inform on NDAs and corporate pressures (Woo, 2021).
Since dragging herself into the spotlight by publicly taking on an ultra-powerful corporation and its internationally-renowned industry, Ms. Ozoma has also begun to use the corporate mechanisms that we have talked about in class to take on big tech companies and their lack of transparency. One of these mechanisms is activism shareholder proposals. Ozoma, in conjunction with Whistle Stop Capital, Open MIC, and Nia Impact Capital, successfully forced Apple into starting the aforementioned process of reviewing their NDA usage. Likewise, Ms. Ozoma has also begun to aid the next generation of tech industry whistleblowers who flock to her for counsel before embarking on a journey of revelation (Woo, 2021).
Given that you all now know of the fire that this single NDA violation sparked, to what extent do you believe NDAs should dictate the speech and actions of former employees?
Woo, E. (2021, November 24). A Tech Whistle-Blower Helps Others Speak Out. The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2021, from https://nyti.ms/3o7h1La.