Technology is increasingly being used to battle corruption. In India, there is now a website called "I paid a Bribe", where people can name and shame officials that have required them to pay bribes. In the U.S., new applications have been developed by the American Civil Liberties Union to secretly record conversations with the police. The technology site, CNET, reports:
Several courts have affirmed the right of citizens to record police actions. A federal appeals court ordered the city of Boston to pay $170,000 to a man prosecuted under criminal wiretap laws for using his cell phone to record an arrest in a landmark case from last summer.
Closer to home, here in Thailand, the U.S. based website, the Global Post, has a story where someone reports they secretly recorded the payment of a bribe to a Thai police officer. The report and video can be accessed here.
New technologies are not going to make corruption disappear over night and this video is admittedly small potatoes, but the proliferation of smart phones, social media and ready access to the internet represent potential game changers in the battle against corruption. Indeed, the highly regarded anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International, is now aggressively using the internet to report on and expose corruption around the world.
And now that the U.S. provides that whistle-blowers in U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and securities fraud cases can claim a 10% to 30% reward in enforcement actions where the penalties recovered exceed U.S.$1 million, there is a tremendous financial incentive for employees to use such technology to uncover and report corruption. See report here. A smartphone used to record a nominal payment to a police officer can just as easily be used to record an illicit meeting with a foreign official or even an internal company meeting about activity that possibly violates the FCPA. Fines in FCPA cases against major companies are often in the tens of millions of dollars. Now more than ever foreign companies operating in Thailand need aggressive anti-corruption compliance programs. For more information about our anti-corruption practice, click here.