By WILLY BLACKMORE
If you’re a USDA meat inspector or a researcher at a biotech firm, Googling “whistle-blower rights” from a company computer is probably not in your best interest. That’s why the people behind the Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign have been thinking a lot about smart phones.
The group’s newly redesigned website, in addition to providing consumer information about food-related issues such as antibiotic resistance and ag-gag legislation, hopes to recruit whistle-blowers.
“We’ve only had it up since Friday, so I can’t say that it’s working at this point,” Amanda Hitt, director of the Food Integrity Campaign, told me on the phone today. The mobile-responsive design has yet to reveal any gross negligence or animal abuse courtesy of a food-world Edward Snowden. But for any would-be whistle-blowers, Hitt’s program now provides detailed information on what kind of protections and services the government and groups like hers can provide.
“Very simply, you just let us know a little bit about your work, how you’re regulated, if your’e state or federal, and what we can do is lead you to the applicable whistle-blower law,” Hitt explains. Knowing that you can be reinstated at your job if you’re fired for speaking up or compensated for being wrongfully transferred is the kind of assurance that can encourage someone to reveal information about their employer.
In a year where we’ve heard plenty about encryption and data dumps as they relate to the Snowden leaks, it’s tempting to see FIC’s approach as a move toward some tech-geek future for ag whistle-blowers.
Not so much. The importance of the privacy iPhones can provide aside, Hitt says that for the most part, “we have done in-person investigations—it’s the old-fashioned way.” She adds that the work is “not nearly as cloak-and-dagger” as building a case against, say, the National Security Administration with a trove of secret documents.
But if you’re sitting on a trove of damning data culled from the files of some food industry megacorp, GAP is more than capable of handling a secure file drop.