Jan. 24, 2022

The Whistleblower Movement Shaking Up the Tech Industry

And the risk that comes with speaking out


Nora and Scott are talking about whistleblowing in the tech biz with Shirin Ghaffary, a tech reporter for Recode/Vox, who published an investigation titled, Big Tech’s employees are one of the biggest checks on its power. She covers the growing internal whistleblower movement against big tech companies, reveals how it's shaping the tech business and what it means for industry regulation.

Hosts: Nora Ali & Scott Rogowsky
Producer: Bella Hutchins
Production, Mixing & Sound Design: Daniel Markus
Music: Daniel Markus & Breakmaster Cylinder
Senior Producer: Katherine Milsop
Director of Audio: Alan Haburchak
VP, Head of Multimedia: Sarah Singer

Full transcript for this episode below. 

Transcript

Shirin Ghaffary: It's often the hardest decision these people probably will ever make in their life. If you think about it, the kind of person who signs up to work at a tech company, especially people who are in more engineering or technical roles. They're not necessarily thinking of themselves as political influencers on an international stage or someone who's going to shape the course of global politics or corporations. And remember when these companies started, they were all promising to make the world more open and connected and accessible and democratic. And then they find themselves privy to this information that shows that, oh no, we could be wrecking the world here. And so they're grappling with whether or not they should speak out. And oftentimes they're leaving really lucrative and cushiony positions to do this. These are some of the best jobs in the economy, to work at a top tech company. They had to work hard to get there. So they're giving up a lot.

Nora Ali: From Morning Brew, this is Business Casual, the podcast that reveals the unexpected business story behind everything. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky. Nora and I are here for your ears, bringing you conversations with creators, thinkers, and innovators, who can tell us what it all means and why we should care. Now let's get down to business. Blow the whistle. Mm. Blow the whistle. The whistle go woo. Nora, did you know that the whistle go woo?

Nora Ali: Does it?

Scott Rogowsky: It's that woo woo.

Nora Ali: Are you quoting something? You're quoting something.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah, I'm quoting the great Frances Haugen, who famously said in front of Congress, "The whistle go woo." No, but she did say Facebook go cray when it comes to messing up the world and teenage mental health. That was a biggie. Are you up on the whistleblower news lately? The movement, the growing movement around Big Tech whistleblowers?

Nora Ali: Sure. Yeah. I interviewed a prominent whistleblower recently. You're well aware of the Theranos trial, Elizabeth Holmes' failed blood testing company. So Tyler Shultz was one of the main whistleblowers in that case. And I had interviewed him and we talked about this with our guest, but the ethical dilemmas that you face when you decide, do I just put my head down, keep working, or do I speak up and risk almost everything? And in the case of Tyler Schultz, his grandfather was George Schultz, former US Secretary of State, a huge supporter and backer of Elizabeth Holmes. So Tyler had to go up against his own family to speak out about the fact that Theranos products didn't actually work in the way that they said they worked. So that was super eye-opening. But yeah, we had this discussion with Shirin and we know that the movement's growing and hopefully giving people more confidence now internally to be able to speak out and not face the same kinds of repercussions you might have faced even a few years ago.

Scott Rogowsky: And when we talk to Shirin, we hear about the motivations. What really struck me about our conversation with Shirin about the whistleblowers she interviewed, is that they're predominantly women or people of color or people who feel marginalized in some way, especially in the tech community, which is predominantly white and male. But it's when you feel like you're representing others, others who may have the green card issues, are on a visa and are more vulnerable to being oppressed or being taken advantage of. They felt like they're speaking out, not just on their behalf, but on the behalf of others in their environment. And it's like a solidarity thing more than anything. So I liked hearing that. And this is a great conversation, because this is certainly a topic that I'm passionate about too. I've blown a few whistles in my day.

Nora Ali: Oh yeah. Do you want to tell us about it or save it for another episode?

Scott Rogowsky: I mean, that's another podcast.

Nora Ali: All right. Let's get to it. As you said, it was a great conversation. So today to break down how internal whistleblowers and organizers at major tech companies are impacting the industry, we are speaking with Shirin Ghaffary, and she is a tech reporter for Recode and Vox. Shirin recently published an article titled "Big Tech's Employees Are One of the Biggest Checks on Its Power, "which, as she writes, takes a look "inside the growing whistleblower movement that's holding tech giants accountable for their missteps." So here's our conversation with Shirin.

Scott Rogowsky: What's wrong with Big Tech, Shirin?

Shirin Ghaffary: Oh, let me tell you. I have the silver bullet solution. Just give me 30 seconds. I'm just kidding.

Nora Ali: Elect her to Congress.

Scott Rogowsky: Where do we begin? No, but I mean, look, there's been a lot of reporting and external whistleblowing, so to speak, on Big Tech companies over the years, but you particularly have focused on internal whistleblowers, employees at these companies who have found the courage to speak out, risking their employment, reputational damage, to come forward and tell their stories about all sorts of injustices or miscarriages, misdeeds. First of all, what interests you about this topic and why do you choose to report on it?

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah, I think so often these Big Tech companies can seem intangible almost, like there are these black boxes and these algorithms and this AI that's spitting out these products that we use every single day and we often don't have a real face of who's behind them besides the CEOs. But really there are tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people who work for all the major tech firms and they're human beings with real morals and emotions and values. And these are people who often really understand what's happening behind the scenes better than anyone else. So I've always been interested in people and following real human beings in my stories. And I think that tech workers are a great way in to understanding whether these companies are really delivering on the promises that they're making to society.

Nora Ali: And one recent, very eye-opening whistleblower situation was of course, Frances Haugen, a Facebook, now Meta whistleblower. It didn't just reveal the ills that Facebook was causing, but the awareness that Facebook had of it and their seeming willingness to ignore it. So just give us a little bit of background for our listeners on why the Frances Haugen situation was so different.

Shirin Ghaffary: Frances Haugen's definitely not the first person in tech to speak out and say that something's going wrong at company like Google or Facebook or what have you, but why she was different was that she had a lot of receipts. She shared over 10,000, I believe, documents, with reporters, first, the Wall Street Journal, and then the documents that ended up getting released to a wider set of media newsroom. She shared all of these paper trails of how Facebook was aware of its problems, as you're saying, was showing that, hey, here are the studies that our own staff are doing, showing how Instagram can harm teenagers' mental health. And these problems didn't really get resolved. So the evidence that she shared was damning and the sheer volume of it was unprecedented. And I think that's what makes the Haugen league so potent. And then additionally, I think she was a great spokesperson for her advocacy. She was very eloquent, very articulate, very polished, and of course she did have the help of like professional PR agency and a whistle blowing organizations, but I think that she had a very strategically well executed plan for how to get the word out there about this bombshell trove of evidence that she had.

Scott Rogowsky: Let's get into the details of those elite documents of that bombshell. A quick recap for our listeners who perhaps, maybe their feeds were quick to gloss over this new story. I wonder how that might have happened. Maybe they didn't get served so much of this Frances Haugen coverage, but what did these documents reveal and why were they so damaging?

Shirin Ghaffary: I mean, there are so many findings from these documents, but I would say probably the one that has received the most attention were the findings about how Instagram affects teenagers' mental health. And I think we all suspected or had anecdotal stories about how, even in our own use of Instagram or social media or people's children's, they've seen them become addicted to these tools and how it can reinforce some negative emotions about people, teenage girls' body image issues or people being bullied on the platform, etcetera. But I think her documents showing that Instagram conducted research on this and showed that such a large percentage of their young users were facing these serious issues because of the app, that was by far, I think, the most damning thing, at least in the US political and media scene, to break. But there were tons of other findings too. Haugen was actually most motivated, she said, by the international issues she found outside the US. By the fact that Facebook's algorithm was radicalizing people, she thought, and had some evidence to prove in countries like India and Ethiopia. And sometimes in those countries, the problems can be a lot worse than in the US because Facebook has less resources devoted to monitoring those situations and those languages.

Scott Rogowsky: And because Facebook acts as a defacto internet in a lot of those countries, right?

Shirin Ghaffary: Exactly.

Scott Rogowsky: They are all on Facebook and there really is no other website that they're using. It's such a centralized force.

Shirin Ghaffary: Right, right. I think we take it for granted here that if you really don't like Facebook, there are other options or Facebook is not the only gateway to the internet. You can find information without Facebook, but in some other places, that's not the case. Facebook sort of is the internet. That is the way that you find basic information and conduct business and talk to your friends. So the effects of it can be much more amplified.

Nora Ali: The default messaging platform is WhatsApp for a lot of countries, which is of course owned by Facebook. But then after all these revelations, you get a response from Facebook. And in part they tried to discredit Haugen, claiming, oh, she wasn't actually in the highest level meetings or that she didn't actually work at Facebook for that long. So how do tech companies usually explain their way out of whistleblower allegations? And why did the case with Haugen make it maybe more difficult for Facebook to follow that playbook ultimately?

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah. I think, a lot of times, the strategy of tech companies can be to discredit whoever is the messenger of the information. My view as a journalist, what matters most is if the evidence, if those receipts that I was talking about, if those are legitimate and real. Facebook never disputed the legitimacy of any of the documents that Haugen leaked. Most doubt they've cast on is to say that this was an incomplete set of evidence and that there's more research out there that would paint a better picture. And my answer to that is, well, show us. I would love to see an extensive additional set of content from Facebook about all the research on how Instagram harms people's mental health or how it contributes to global politics. You're right that these companies do tend to focus on the messenger, and in this case, they said Haugen was not in these executive level meetings where they're discussing the implications of all of this damning research and that she doesn't really know what's going on with Zuckerberg and his deputies. And Haugen never claimed that. She is a product manager. That is a coveted role. It's a respected role in tech. It's not necessarily a super high-up managerial role. So she definitely has the technical expertise to understand the types of problems and issues Facebook's facing. But I think that this strategy can be a little bit misdirecting, I think, in focusing so much on the people rather than what they are even telling us.

Scott Rogowsky: Right. And should it matter what the role is? I mean, what if it's a member of the janitorial staff who finds a document that has these evil mastermind plans that Zuckerberg's cooking up and leaks them? I mean, should it matter where the sources come from as long as the sources are legitimate?

Nora Ali: Let's take a very quick break and more with Shirin when we get back. Shirin, I want to dig in a little bit more into what goes through the minds of whistleblowers when they decide to blow the whistle. Haugen told Recode that, "It's a horrible experience from the perspective of wrestling with what to do." And then you guys also talked to another former Facebook employee named Sophie Zhang, who said, "I consider myself to have been put in an impossible spot caught between my loyalties to the company and my loyalties to the world as a whole." These are ethical conflicts that these people are facing. So what did you find in your research as to what they're going through when they decide to blow the whistle?

Shirin Ghaffary: It's often the hardest decision these people probably will ever make in their life. If you think about it, the kind of person who signs up to work at a tech company, especially people who are in more engineering or technical roles, they're not necessarily thinking of themselves as political influencers on an international stage or someone who's going to shape the course of global politics or corporations. A lot of people tell me, "I would just rather sit down and code." They feel dragged into this. Because they signed up to work for what they thought was overall a net good or net neutral for society, working for a social media company. And remember when these companies started, they were all promising to make the world more open and connected and accessible and democratic. And then they find themselves privy to this information that shows that, oh, no, we could be wrecking the world here. And so they're grappling with whether or not they should speak out. And, oftentimes they're leaving really lucrative and cushiony positions to do this. These are some of the best jobs in the economy, to work at a top tech company. They had to work hard to get there. So they're giving up a lot.

Scott Rogowsky: And this is a growing movement. And you spoke with nearly a dozen internal whistleblowers and organizers in the tech industry for your article, which we're discussing. What can you tell us about the kind of person who blows the whistle? Are there patterns in their demographic range? And why do you think that these details matter when we look at how they're affecting tech companies?

Shirin Ghaffary: We've tended to see people who are more rank and file blow the whistle. Haugen was actually considered a higher level person compared to maybe some other more rank and file employees who have blown the whistle in the past. I do think we see, this is pretty anecdotal, but if you look at my article, there were a lot of women, a lot of people who in some way identified as a minority in tech, whether that was their race or their sexual orientation or gender, or what have you. I do think that matters. I think anyone can be a whistleblower, but I do often see in my reporting, at least a lot of my sources identify with being an underdog or being faced by oppression in some way in their life. And they can understand why it's important to protect the users. That freedom of speech can come at a cost to other marginalized people and understand the implications of something like harassment or political extremism in a personal way.

Nora Ali: And these whistleblowers are also coming up against these criticisms like perceived incentives, financial incentives, where, I think for SEC cases, sometimes you can get 10 to 30% of the ultimate fines, or maybe they're looking for "fame," that sort of thing. What did you learn about these criticisms in your research, and why might they not actually hold up?

Shirin Ghaffary: I mean, the reality is, like some of the people I've talked to, some of these engineers who have blown the whistle in some way, or organize their colleagues, they're making upwards of 500, 600K a year, some of them. And people are giving this up and this career trajectory where they can make several hundreds of thousand dollars, if not a million a year, at some point, if you just put your head down and code. Why would you give that up for financial gain of maybe writing a book that hopefully people will buy about your experience?

Scott Rogowsky: Oh yeah. The book industry is so hot right now.

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah. Because we all know. We all know everyone wants to be... Yeah, the money making biz of media and journalism. But I really, I think the finances of whistleblowing are quite bleak and then the consequences are huge. You can get unemployed. Is almost a granted. You are ostracized by your community of other tech workers. And it's hard to find new employment at a major tech company. You are potentially facing the legal and political fight of your life against a major multinational, so one of the most powerful corporations in the world. You're now their enemy. Personally, I don't know if I would--

Nora Ali: Why would you?

Shirin Ghaffary: Right. I don't know if this is looking so attractive to me, if I'm in that position. So again, I think these people all have some very compelling and deep moral reason to do this.

Nora Ali: Of the people you talked to, did they try to get jobs in tech? Did they try to work for more advocacy organizations? What happens after someone's done blowing the whistle?

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah. I was really interested in that because when I first started reporting on this, people were just getting fired or leaving and they're like, "I don't know what I'm going to do." They really had no clue. They're eating through their savings, and some of them still are, but most of them, most of the people I talked to have landed some other kind of job connected to what they were doing before, often just for a different company. So like two former Google internal whistleblowers who were upset about Google's contracts with Customs and Border Protection, one of them is quoted in my article, Rebecca Rivers. She ended up working for an NYU research group and she now helps them make technology that's actually studying the effect of companies like Facebook and Google and their advertising. So she's found a way to use her skills instead of for profit, in this case for academia, studying those very companies that she used to work for. That being said, she went through a lot. Like she, for a while said she couldn't find a jobs, felt like people were blackballing her because she was a whistleblower and suffered. Really went through some serious mental health struggles because of that.

Scott Rogowsky: When I think about whistleblowers, it comes down to just a personality type, maybe. I would assume most people at these Big Tech companies are content to go along to get along, to not ruffle any feathers, to collect that fat paycheck and stay focused in their one particular area of the company. Maybe they're really excited about working on the new emoji for Facebook and they want bury their head in the sand when it comes to, I don't know, Facebook's possible role in the Myanmar uprisings or genocides or racist attacks in India.

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah. I think all these people have some deep sense of moral and ethical compass. I'm not saying others who don't speak out don't. I think these whistleblowers themselves also feel like they're in a place of privilege enough where they can speak out. A lot of them said they felt compelled because some of their co-workers were actually immigrants on H-1B visas who couldn't say anything. Because remember, a huge portion of tech companies, a lot of their engineering staff are foreigners or people who are here from other countries. And if they're no longer working for Facebook or Google, they have to go back. I also think others say they never really thought they were going to be this position. And I believe them because again, if you signed up to work for Google in like 2005, people really did truly believe not so long ago in Silicon Valley that you were saving the world when you went to work for these companies. And maybe that attracts a certain kind of person too. A lot of these whistleblowers will recite to me their company mottos and values, especially Google, and say, "We said, 'Don't be evil.' We said, 'Make the world's information accessible.'" And they really did believe the doctrine of using social media to make the world a better place. And they became extremely disillusioned and it was all the more jarring when that wasn't working out how they thought.

Nora Ali: They weren't evil presumably when they started but the growth has been just outpacing that of regulation or anywhere else to keep up with it. But if you are someone, one of these employees internally, you're weighing the pros and cons, you're weighing the risks, what are, on the other end, some of the protections that exist, whether it's from regulatory bodies, governing bodies? If you are a whistleblower, what exists to protect you from things you might have signed, like NDAs, for example?

Shirin Ghaffary: Unfortunately the law tends to not be on the side of people who speak out. It's almost default for major tech companies to have NDAs and have lots of legal protections for themselves. And they essentially ensure that if you are an employee for one of these companies, if you leave and say anything about the company, you're at legal risk, the company could sue you. Now there's been movements to say, "Hey, that makes sense." If you work at Facebook and then you go tell all of Facebook's... The latest gadgets and gizmos they're working on to someone else to the next company you work for, hey, that's not fair. But if you want to talk about the sexual harassment you face by your manager at Facebook, or if you want to talk about the moral implications of some product that's out there, that shouldn't be covered under this NDA. You should be allowed to say that. So there have been some successes, at least at the local level. Like in California now, one of the whistleblowers I talked to who used to work at Pinterest, Ifeoma Ozoma, she has made it her real political cause and she put a lot of effort into helping get this bill passed, called the Silenced No More Act. And that says that, if you have faced harassment, discrimination at a company and you want to speak out on that, your NDA does not hold, at least in California. And that has been signed into law now. So I think we are seeing some increased protections. There's a big case going on with that National Labor Relations Board and a set of Google employees who are whistleblowers, that could expand people's legal rights in the workplace to talk about political issues. So, we'll see. But the truth of the matter is the law is largely on the side of the employer in the US. And that's trended this way for many, many years, since the labor movement was weakened in the 20th century.

Nora Ali: At least with more whistleblowers, maybe employees will now be emboldened to speak out the more people they see doing it as well.

Shirin Ghaffary: That's right. And you know what? That's also where I think the power of the press can help because people can leak anonymously to me, tell me all your secrets. I'm just kidding. But you can talk to the press. The legal definition of whistleblowing you could say is if you go to the government itself, the US Federal Government. There are programs for people to also talk, I should say. Like the SEC has a program and Haugen went to that, but she also went to the Wall Street Journal and she chose to eventually go public. But there are others who never go public. We don't know who they are, but they have told reporters things or they have told legislators things or the government things. And it's never perfect, but there are programs in place and practices to protect those folks.

Scott Rogowsky: Shirin@recode.net, send your tips.

Shirin Ghaffary: That's right. Please try to do as securely as possible. Use Signal, encrypted email. Do not use your work phone. It's quite scary because these are the most sophisticated tech companies in the world. And so luckily I think most people who work at these companies are pretty tech savvy themselves, but you can definitely get caught if you are not careful about how you do it.

Scott Rogowsky: We're going to take another quick break with Shirin, but we'll hear more when we come back. Shirin, we're talking about this growing movement of whistleblowers and activists, but on the flip side, there are these tech giants that are constantly efforting to tamp down these movements. What are they doing to mitigate? Are we seeing an equal amount of muscle coming from them as people feel more emboldened?

Shirin Ghaffary: Absolutely. I mean, we've seen just this week, I believe, there was a story coming out of that same case I was saying with the Google whistleblowers, where Google's top HR people and some of the top legal teams were saying that we need to come up with a plan to convince Google employees that "unions suck." That was actually written in a document. And Google tried to not share those documents, but they were eventually issued to be released by the court. So that's kind of some of the interesting stuff we're finding out in these legal cases that whistleblowers are launching. We're seeing just how scared these companies are by the prospect of their employees organizing, forming unions, and ultimately having more organized power. Google actually does have a union now. It's called the Alphabet Workers Union. It's an optional union. So it's not like a traditional one where you defacto join it. But I think that's just one example, but there are probably, who knows how many secret documents and memos and meetings there are by terrified tech executives who have to deal with this problem. And again, just five years ago, most tech employees were largely drinking the Kool-Aid. I'm from Silicon Valley, I worked at a tech startup out of college. I lived through this era. This is a very relatively new problem for these companies to face. This is not the automotive industry. This is not teachers. This is not a sector that's traditionally been organized and unionized, and this is a huge threat.

Nora Ali: And then all of these problems collectively have led to increasing calls for Big Tech regulation. The number of times that I've said Big Tech regulation in the last three years is just... I can't even count. But we really haven't seen anything. Democrats and Republicans both agree that there should be some regulation, but it seems like no one can really agree on what the "right regulation" is. So what is preventing our system from properly regulating these Big Tech companies at this point, given that we know so much more now from these whistleblowing stories?

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah. It's remarkable because ideologically, it's one of the few areas in US politics right now that you see Democrats and Republicans agreeing on. Is like, they all hate Big Tech and they want to finally wield their stick against tech. But somehow, they seem unable to effectively wield that stick. For people who want tech reform, for the trustbusters, there's a lot of hope right now because you have new blood in these top positions. You have like Lina Khan heading the FTC, Jonathan Kanter at the Department of Justice. I'm very skeptical that that's going to happen. It just--change takes time and it's incredibly difficult. And I think one of the biggest roadblocks is the kind of partisan gridlock that we're in. So even if there is political will on both sides to regulate this industry, there's the question of, okay, well who's going to do it? How are you actually going to get these people to sign on when they're fighting tooth and nail, the different parties? And then you have tech lobbyists coming out in full swing and they are responding to this threat of regulation by just funding endless cash into trying to whisper in these politicians' ears and tell them that, "Hey, if you pass this legislation regulating tech, you're actually going to stifle the whole US economy. China is going to beat us all. And America's tech sector will go to shit." And so you don't want to be the one respon... There is a real fear, I think, in Congress too, that if they go too far, they could be crushing America's gem of this tech sector that's doing so well.

Nora Ali: I mean, maybe there's just a little bit of a lack of understanding on what exactly is wrong and what exactly needs to be fixed. Because if you guys recall Finsta-gate, here's a clip of Senator Richard Blumenthal talking about Finsta.

[START AUDIO CLIP]

Senator Richard Blumenthal: Will you commit to ending Finsta?

Antigone Davis: Senator, again, let me explain. We don't actually do Finsta. What Finsta refers to is young people setting up accounts where they want to have more privacy. You refer to it as privacy from their parents. In my interaction with teens, what I've found is that they sometimes like to have an account where they can interact just with a smaller group of friends.

[/END AUDIO CLIP]

Nora Ali: Now, that was meant to get Facebook to address child exploitation and mental health but it sounds like the words just didn't come out quite right. Shirin, do you think we have a Congress at this point, who has the understanding to be able to fix these issues?

Shirin Ghaffary: I get that that clip made him sound foolish, but I think that... and my hot take is actually Senator Blumenthal, he actually knows what he's talking about a lot of the times when he's discussing tech. He's been one of the more active legislators on this topic. He maybe had a senior moment with that.

Nora Ali: Just didn't come out quite right.

Shirin Ghaffary: It didn't come. Definitely didn't come out right. But I think that, look, does Congress have the kind of technical skill that Google engineers do? No. But are they themselves all nowadays using Twitter and Facebook or at least are their kids or their grandkids? Yes. I think we shouldn't set the bar for our legislators to be chemical scientists to regulate the pharmaceutical industry. They didn't have to be tobacco experts to regulate Philip Morris. But at the end of the day, I think actually Congress is getting smarter and better and making less of those silly sound bites. And I think that Big Tech loves to point to those and say, "This is why Congress will never figure it out."

Nora Ali: Congress is getting a lot of practice. There have been a lot of Big Tech hearings in just the last couple years.

Shirin Ghaffary: I think the real question for Congress is like, can you actually get a bill passed? And that's what we'll see. Especially if Republicans take back control of the Congress.

Scott Rogowsky: And you mentioned the lobbyists, which is the biggest issue. I mean, the money there is absurd. So look, we've seen the Haugen testimony. We've read your articles. We've heard from the whistleblowers, we've watched The Social Dilemma, which was pretty fantastic. And the collective consciousness, are we waking up to this reality? Do you sense that there's any kind of change happening? I mean, is anything going to change? Are we just stuck, shouting at these emperors from our peasant lodging?

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah. It does feel futile sometimes because, despite all the greater awareness, I think that the public has come a long way in understanding the negative consequences that technology can have. I think that in itself is a remarkable shift. I think if you think about the kind of unbridled optimism that's surrounded the tech industry. And I think that how that will translate to real change is still very uncertain, but I do think that the first step usually in any major societal change is just a change in popular opinion, but we'll see if any real change comes. It may not be in a year or two years. It may be more like a decades-long thing. But I don't think-

Nora Ali: In our lifetime at least.

Shirin Ghaffary: In our lifetime. They may in my grandkids'.

Nora Ali: Your grandkids and their Finstas.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, we had an ulterior motive to get you on the podcast here because what we really wanted to do, Shirin, we wanted to put you to the test. It's time for the Business Casual quiz. Business Casual is becoming Quizness Casual for the next few minutes. Today's contestants, Nora Ali and Shirin Ghaffary. It's going to be Nora and Shirin going head to head. We've been talking about whistleblowers. So today's quiz is all about the biggest whistleblower moments in US history. The betting money is going to Shirin on this one.

Nora Ali: Yeah. Duh.

Scott Rogowsky: The fact that she's been knee-deep in this.

Nora Ali: I'm immensely prepared to lose. It's okay though.

Scott Rogowsky: Okay. Let's see who's going to come out ahead. I'll be the referee blowing the whistle here. On question one, here we go. Edward Snowden. We know Edward Snowden. Edward Snowden leaked classified information from which government entity? Was it, A, the National Security Agency, B, United States Department of Homeland Security, C, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or D, the Foreign Intelligence Service?

Shirin Ghaffary: A.

Nora Ali: I agree that it's A, the NSA.

Shirin Ghaffary: Yeah.

Nora Ali: I like that we started with the softball question. Are we right, Scott?

Scott Rogowsky: NSA is correct. You are both right on that one. Next question. You both got that one right. We're one and one. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was granted asylum by which country? A, Netherlands, B, Turkey, C, South Africa, or D, Ecuador?

Nora Ali: Oh, I don't remember.

Shirin Ghaffary: I think it was... Is it Ecuador?

Nora Ali: D, Ecuador.

Scott Rogowsky: Yeah. You're both right again. It was Ecuador granting asylum in their UK embassy.

Shirin Ghaffary: I do remember a funny news story about how he was too messy and they were getting annoyed with him.

Nora Ali: Yeah, I know that.

Shirin Ghaffary: Just being a nuisance. And I'm like, "Man, if I was on political asylum somewhere in some embassy, I'd be on my best behavior." I'm not sure I'd push my luck, I think if I'm like a wanted criminal in like most of the world.

Scott Rogowsky: Truly one of the craziest things to happen in my lifetime. The tiebreaker. The potential tie breaking question. You both have two out of three. The final question, which publication first published the Pentagon Papers? Was it A, the Washington Post, B, the Wall Street Journal, C, the New York Times, or D, the Boston Globe? Shirin, hold your tongue.

Shirin Ghaffary: A, Washington.

Nora Ali: I think--

Scott Rogowsky: I was gonna say, let's have Nora answer first.

Nora Ali: No. Well, she already said, but, Shirin, you even brought up the Pentagon Papers I think in our convo.

Shirin Ghaffary: I did. I did.

Nora Ali: So like, she just knows. I was also going to say the Washington Post.

Shirin Ghaffary: You got to make these questions harder next time.

Nora Ali: Yeah. These were a little bit straightforward this time. I don't mind that.

Scott Rogowsky: Well, guess what? Guess what? This is the Pentagon Papers, not the Panama Papers. Pentagon Papers published on the front page of the New York Times.

Shirin Ghaffary: Oh, I was wrong. You are right.

Scott Rogowsky: You are both wrong. New York Times.

Nora Ali: Wow.

Shirin Ghaffary: I thought of, wow, this is where I was overly cocky. Wow. I should have known that.

Nora Ali: Whoops.

Shirin Ghaffary: I'm just going to blame it on my millennial youth. It's just a too, too far back in time.

Scott Rogowsky: So that's a wrap on the quiz. Shirin and Nora both score two out of three. Congrats, guys. Shirin Ghaffary is a reporter for Recode at Vox. We've been talking about her article, "Big Tech's Employees Are One of the Biggest Checks on Its Power." We love hearing from you, BC listeners. So please hit our line. We're working on an upcoming episode about Revel, the new all-Tesla rideshare app that's popping up at cities across the country. Yeah. They only use Tesla's. It's a totally Tesla situation. Send us an email at businesscasual@morningbrew.com or DM us on Twitter @BizCasualPod, that's B-I-Z Casual Pod, with your thoughts.

Nora Ali: You can also leave us a voice memo on our website, businesscasual.fm, or give us a ring. Leave us an old fashioned voicemail. Our number is 862-295-1135. As Business Casual grows, we are excited to get to know our listeners, old and new. Drop us a line and don't forget to leave your name and where you're calling or writing from, so we can hear from you in a future episode.

Scott Rogowsky: Business Casual's produced by Katherine Milsop and Bella Hutchins. Additional production sound design and mixing by Daniel Markus. Alan Haburchak is Director of Audio Morning Group. Sarah Singer is our VP of Multimedia, and Jessica Coen is our Chief Content Officer. Music in this episode from Daniel Markus and The Mysterious Breakmaster Cylinder. If you like what you heard, please, please, please follow Business Casual on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you go for that ear candy. And we'd love it if you would give us a great rating and a review.

Nora Ali: Thanks for listening to Business Casual. I'm Nora Ali.

Scott Rogowsky: And I'm Scott Rogowsky.

Nora Ali: Keep it business...

Scott Rogowsky: And keep it casual. Keep blowing that whistle. Blow the whistle. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can we get that song in here? Probably not.