One Wrong Click to Armageddon

Executives at pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. were stunned recently by a remarkably detailed article in The New York Times regarding their quiet settlement talks with the government over the popular schizophrenia drug Zyprexa. Initially, executives thought surely someone from the government was to blame, but after further investigation, they discovered the scary truth.

A member of Eli Lilly’s outside counsel team meant to e-mail a sensitive memo to a colleague, Bradford Berenson, but instead accidentally sent it to Alex Berenson, a Times reporter.

Talk about a scoop that fell into his lap.

This is a story that has been relived a thousand times since the mainstreaming of e-communication: private information accidentally sent elsewhere. From small indiscretions in the office or among friends to secret memos detailing billion-dollar payoffs, both can happen by just one or two wrong clicks. It begs the question, is it the person or the technology that’s responsible for such gaffs?

Many would argue that it’s ultimately the person who’s responsible. If someone misuses something, whether it’s a toaster or a computer, they should be held accountable, not the machine.

On an episode of the popular sitcom “The Office,” the lovable doofus boss of Dunder Mifflin, Michael Scott, had a similar but more personal e-mail blunder. Michael secretly is dating Jan, his boss, and after the two returned from a Jamaican vacation he accidentally forwarded a racy picture of the two to a warehouse employee who then sent it to…


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