A whistleblower (also written as whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes secretive information or activity within a private or public organization that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption.
Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Internally, a whistleblower can bring his/her accusations to the attention of other people within the accused organization such as an immediate supervisor. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of an accused organization such as the media, government, law enforcement, or those who are concerned. Whistleblowers, however, take the risk of facing stiff reprisal and retaliation from those who are accused or alleged of wrongdoing.
Because of this, a number of laws exist to protect whistleblowers. Some third-party groups even offer protection to whistleblowers, but that protection can only go so far. Whistleblowers face legal action, criminal charges, social stigma, and termination from any position, office, or job. Two other classifications of whistleblowing are private and public. The classifications relate to the type of organizations someone chooses to whistle-blow on: private sector, or public sector. Depending on many factors, both can have varying results. However, whistleblowing in the public sector organization is more likely to result in criminal charges and possible custodial sentences. A whistle blower who chooses to accuse a private sector organization or agency is more likely to face termination and legal and civil charges.
Deeper questions and theories of whistleblowing and why people choose to do so can be studied through an ethical approach. Whistleblowing is a topic of ongoing ethical debate. Leading arguments in the ideological camp that whistleblowing is ethical maintain that whistleblowing is a form of civil disobedience, and aims to protect the public from government wrongdoing.In the opposite camp, some see whistleblowing as unethical for breaching confidentiality, especially in industries that handle sensitive client or patient information. Legal protection can also be granted to protect whistleblowers, but that protection is subject to many stipulations.
Hundreds of laws grant protection to whistleblowers, but stipulations can easily cloud that protection and leave whistleblowers vulnerable to retaliation and legal trouble. However, the decision and action has become far more complicated with recent advancements in technology and communication. Whistleblowers frequently face reprisal, sometimes at the hands of the organization or group they have accused, sometimes from related organizations, and sometimes under law. Questions about the legitimacy of whistleblowing, the moral responsibility of whistleblowing, and the appraisal of the institutions of whistleblowing are part of the field of political ethics.