Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Banned in the Pentagon 

The Army is trying to hold back the sea with its ban on digital cameras. Of course, it won't work. Digital imaging is being put into just about everything. And, camera phones will be the only kind of cell phone one can buy soon enough.

What happened to the Pentagon at Abu Ghraib should be a warning to organizations everywhere. Public relations practitioners should add yet another risk to their list of things to watch out for. If soldiers could take photos of prisoner abuse, employees can take photos of managers consorting illicitly with employees or supervisors drunk at a bar or documents showing the company has been fudging its numbers. In fact, there is no end of things employees can take photos of and post to the Internet anonymously or hand to a local prosecuting attorney.

There is little secrecy in the digital age. I hesitate to say no secrecy. It is still possible to operate undercover. Osama Bin Laden has been successful in eluding American troops. But chances of discovery now are greater than ever.

If people possess equipment, they use it -- some for good purposes and some for ill. Digital equipment is in the mainstream, which means digital imaging will soon be available to everyone at an affordable cost.

Think, if you will, of the future PR organization set up to intercept digital photos of the boss in flagrante delicto with a secretary at a local motel. It's going to happen soon enough, if it has not happened already. I'm sure there are companies already whose dirty little secrets are stored on CD-ROMs that employees are handing around. It makes my skin crawl to think about it, but if it could happen in the Army, it could happen anywhere.

Get ready.


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