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Difference Between Whistleblower and Leaker

The terms whistleblowing and leaking information are often misunderstood and mixed. They are often used interchangeably. But both have their own particular characteristics and distinctive consequences. They both are somehow related to the leak of a piece of information, but the difference lies in the type of information that they leak and the difference of authorities or people they report to. The culture of the organization also plays a major part in the difference of these two terms.

 

Who is a Whistleblower?

Definition:

A whistleblower is a person who reveals any information about a person or a group of people who try to harm an institution, public or private, through illegal and unethical activities.

Characteristics:

  • A person who is known as whistleblower can choose to inform about the wrong doings of people to either external or internal parties.
  • In case of internal party, the whistleblower tells the information to someone who is in authority. For example, and immediate supervisor.
  • Externally, the whistleblower can give that information about the accused organization to a third party that is somehow concerned. For example, law agencies, government etc.
  • A whistleblower faces serious retaliation from the accused party.
  •  In case of public sector, whistleblowing can result in criminal charges and possible custodian sentences.
  • In private sector, a whistleblower is more likely to face civil charges and termination.
  • The False Claims Act, additionally alluded to as the Lincoln Law, was made in 1863 to rebuff people or organizations who cheat the U.S. government. The law incorporates a “qui tam” arrangement that enables an individual to document a suit for the administration’s benefit. Qui tam, as a legitimate idea, goes back to thirteenth century England. (Benovitz)

Example:

Northrop Grumman is a noteworthy aviation and defense technology organization. Informant Robert Ferro, alongside the U.S. government, documented a qui tam suit against Northrop Grumman. The organization was blamed for pitching broken electronic gear to the legislature for military satellites. The $325-million settlement is the biggest settlement paid by a protection contractual worker in a qui tam case. Ferro got $48.7 million for his cooperation for the situation. (Benowitz)

 

Who is a Leaker?

Definition:

A leaker is someone who leaks a company’s information to an authorized party. For example, media, journalists, and other people who are not entitled to receive it.

Characteristics:

  • A leaker has no restrictions and can leak any information.
  • A person is called a leaker if he/she leaks a piece of information classified as secret.
  • A leaker brings more harm than good to the organization.
  • A leaker often has personal benefits in leaking the information.
  • The culture of the organization and the attitude of media also plays a role in information leak.

Example:

Benjamin Franklin secretly got a parcel of letters encouraging Britain to send extra troops to stop defiant colonist in Boston. The unknown letters were kept in touch with a British authority by Thomas Hutchinson, the legislative leader of Massachusetts. The exposure of the letters prompted the Revolutionary War. Similarly, in 1848, correspondent John Nuget distributed an unsigned duplicate of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which finished up the two-year-long Mexican-American War. (Richmond)

 

Similarities:

There are few similarities in a whistleblower and a leaker:

  1. A whistleblower and a leaker both provide someone with a piece of information that certain parties would have preferred to remain secret.
  2. Both have to face certain resistance and legal course of actions.

 

Difference Between Whistleblower vs. Leaker:

Listed below are some of the differences between whistleblowing and leaking:

  1. Whistleblowing is legal whereas leaking is an illegal act.
  2. There are specified laws to protect whistleblowers but no such laws for leakers.
  3. A whistleblower tries to right a wrong and goes to a certain chain of command before going public whereas leaker directly provides information to external parties. (Francke)
  4. A whistleblower reports an unethical act or misconduct of the company whereas a leaker leaks secret information to gain political attention.
  5. A whistleblower gains some officially acclaimed monetary benefits whereas a leaker does not get explicit rewards.
  6. A whistleblower is encouraged to come forward and report a misconduct whereas a leaker is not officially encouraged to do so.

Whistleblower vs Leaker

 

 

Summary of Whistleblower and Leaker:

Whistleblowing and leaking an information are often used interchangeably but are two distinct phenomena. A whistleblower is encouraged to right a wrong since he/she informs the immediate authority or the government about an unlawful or illegal act happening in a public or private organization. Whistleblower faces threats and retaliation from those who prefer the secrecy of the wrongdoing. Whereas, a leaker leaks any important information about an organization that can harm the organization by benefitting an outside party such as media. Leaker also faces serious trouble and criminal charges. He/she is never encouraged to leak information from inside the company. There are many instances of leaking information to lead to huge chaos. Both whistleblowing and leaking are related to information leak, but the type of information is different for each case. Both these terms have their own meaning and their own consequences. The examples show us how these terms are different and result in different course of actions.

 

zahra ali khan

Legal Researcher at Graduated From BPP Law School
Zahra Khan, was raised in West London and graduated from BPP Law school. She has a keen interest in politics and current affairs and has several published articles on various websites. Currently she is working as a legal researcher. Other than that Zahra is an avid follower of Game of thrones and loves to read books.
zahra ali khan

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[0]Image credit: https://media.defense.gov/2016/Nov/16/2001668868/780/780/0/161108-F-SO188-0006.JPG

[1]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ipredator/34056231335/

[2]Benowitz, David. "Famous Examples Of Whistleblowers | False Claims Act". Criminal Lawyer Washington DC, 2019, https://criminallawdc.com/famous-examples-of-whistleblowers/.

[3]Richmond, Kelly. "Leaks Vs. Whistle-Blowers? That Is The Question.". Forbes.Com, 2019.

[4]Terry Francke, General Counsel, and General Counsel Terry Francke. "The Difference Between Leaks And Whistleblowing - Californians Aware". Californians Aware, 2019, https://www.calaware.org/the-difference-between-leaks-and-whistleblowing/.

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