Sometimes media coverage confuses people as to what a whistleblower actually does. You may have read news stories that refer to whistleblowers as leakers. It is important to understand that being a leaker and acting as a whistleblower are not entirely the same.
Reader’s Digest explains how a whistleblower differs from a leaker. Given that leaking information can be an illegal act, you should understand what it means to be a whistleblower so you may avoid legal complications.
The definition of a leaker
Basically, a leaker is somebody who releases confidential information from a private company or a government entity. Usually, the leaker provides the information to the media. In many cases, leaking information breaks a law or a legal contract such as a non-disclosure agreement. This can land the leaker in prison or the target of a lawsuit.
The motives of leakers vary. While some believe they are doing the right thing, many leakers act for a personal goal and not necessarily for the good of the public. Some forms of leaking can also cause harm to others by violating their privacy.
The responsibility of a whistleblower
While whistleblowing can result in the disclosure of information, the intention is to reveal illegal activities at a workplace and protect the public interest. Also, whistleblowing is a protected activity under the law. While a leaker could suffer prosecution, a whistleblower has legal protection from retaliatory acts.
Conflating leaking with whistleblowing can cast the latter activity in a bad light. However, the truth is that whistleblowers act legitimately when they report criminal actions in a workplace. Understanding how to be a responsible whistleblower, such as taking proper action to gather documents, may help protect you from accusations of leaking for personal gain.