A whistleblower (also written as whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person, usually an employee, who exposes information or activity within a private, public, or government organization that is deemed illegal, immoral, illicit, unsafe, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer funds. Those who become whistleblowers can choose to bring information or allegations to surface either internally or externally. Over 83% of whistleblowers report internally to a supervisor, human resources, compliance, or a neutral third party within the company, with the thought that the company will address and correct the issues. Externally, a whistleblower can bring allegations to light by contacting a third party outside of the organization such as the media, government, or law enforcement. The most common type of retaliation reported is being abruptly terminated. However, there are several other activities that are considered retaliatory, such as sudden extreme increase in workloads, having hours cut drastically, making task completion impossible or otherwise bullying measures. 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. Two other classifications of whistleblowing are private and public. The classifications relate to the type of organizations the whistleblower works in: private sector, or public sector. Depending on many factors, both can have varying results. About 20% of whistleblowers are successful in stopping the illegal behaviors, usually through the legal system, with the help of a whistleblower attorney. For the whistleblower’s claims to be credible and successful, the whistleblower must have compelling evidence to support their claims, that the government or regulating body can use or investigate to “prove” such claims and hold corrupt companies and/or government agencies accountable.
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 several myths and inaccurate definitions. Leading arguments in the ideological camp, maintain that whistleblowing is the most basic of ethical traits and simply telling the truth to stop illegal harmful activities, or fraud against the government/taxpayers. In the opposite camp, many corporations and corporate or government leaders see whistleblowing as being disloyal for breaching confidentiality, especially in industries that handle sensitive client or patient information. Legal counteractive measures exist 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, sometimes even threats and physical harm. However, the decision and action has become far more complicated with recent advancements in technology and communication.