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Cisco And Activist Shareholders

By: Dan Morrill

Activist shareholders in the crowd and on the company's board have many things that they would like the company to do...

...other than just make great network equipment. Activists who own a lot of stock can get resolutions passed that the company has to pay attention to, rather than the pursuit of making great gear.

Cisco in the last couple of meetings have been hit with some issues about China, the internet and the use of their gear for censorship. In particular:

"Cisco shareholders have rejected a resolution by an investor that would have required the company to review its business activities in repressive countries, but the issue is becoming increasingly hot for technology companies. A 51% agreement would be needed for the resolution to pass. But if passed, the company would be required to produce a report for shareholders that would detail how the company is working to ensure its business practices do not "encourage or enable the violation of human rights".

It would also be required to review company policy and how its activities might impact human rights and the development of a fragmented internet. The resolution stated: "the liberating power of the internet depends on its existence as one global internet. Any policies in this area should, we believe, proceed from the realization that its very global nature provides a unique tool for the dissemination of ideas and cultivation of freedoms. We should do nothing to disturb its promise." (Guardian UK).

Can you image a computer security company, firm, or company that makes good computing products responsible for the uses that that technology is used for. That would implicate every Linux, windows, and other platform ever built, and increase the difficulties of those firms to do business. Nevertheless, the activist shareholders are not thinking that way, they just want to ensure that those technologies are not used to repress people in doing what they want to do.

Unfortunately, the behavior of people on the internet, with the ability to not view your victims has lead to my field, computer security, and how it is applied across the internet. If I need an ACL to keep a hacker out, please do not ask me about violating his or her human rights or dignity.

While there is the potential for any technology to be used for bad purposes, that same technology can also liberate. It is not the technology companies issue, nor is it their place (like Google, Yahoo and MSN) to decide how that technology will be used, they just make stuff. It is the government and laws that decide how that technology will be implemented, and we have seen this with P2P, IPod, networking, Song Bird, and other companies that do things, but legally end up in hot water in one form or another legally. That is really where the battles need to be fought, not at Cisco, but at governments and laws that decide what is good or bad for a population.



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About the Author:
Dan Morrill has been in the information security field for 18 years, both civilian and military, and is currently working on his Doctor of Management. Dan shares his insights on the important security issues of today through his blog, Managing Intellectual Property & IT Security, and is an active participant in the ITtoolbox blogging community.

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