- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating is associate editor at Foreign Policy and the editor of the Passport blog. He has worked as a researcher, editorial assistant, and deputy Web editor since joining the FP staff in 2007. In addition to being featured in Foreign Policy, his writing has been published by the Washington Post, Newsweek International, Radio Prague, the Center for Defense Information, and Romania's Adevarul newspaper. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN International, C-Span, ABC News, Al Jazeera, NPR, BBC radio, and others. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he studied comparative politics at Oberlin College.
This is not your typical story of jobs being shipped overseas. The Guardian reports that a U.S. software developer working for a U.S.-based company was caught self-outsourcing during a routine network security check:
It was only after a thorough investigation that it was revealed that the culprit was not a hacker, but "Bob" (not his real name), an "inoffensive and quiet" family man and the company’s top-performing programmer, who could be seen toiling at his desk day after day and staring diligently at his monitor.
For Bob had come up with the idea of outsourcing his own job – to China. So, while a Chinese consulting firm got on with the job he was paid to do, on less than one-fifth of his salary, he whiled away his working day surfing Reddit, eBay and Facebook.
Here’s what he did with all his spare time:
When the company checked his web-browsing history, a typical "work day" for Bob was: 9am, arrive and surf Reddit for a couple of hours, watch cat videos; 11.30am, take lunch; 1pm, eBay; 2pm-ish, Facebook updates, LinkedIn; 4.40pm–end of day, update email to management; 5pm, go home.
The kicker, of course, is that "Bob" was doing a great job:
Meanwhile, his performance review showed that, for several years in a row, Bob had received excellent remarks for his codes which were "clean, well written and submitted in a timely fashion".
This outsourcing pioneer, who may have been running a similar scam, has now been fired. I would imagine his former colleagues probably don’t appreciate him giving the bosses ideas.
This raises an interesting question, though. Bob had FedExed his physical RSA key, needed to access the company’s network, to the Chinese firm — obviously a no-no. But if his work hadn’t required network access, would this actually be illegal? As long as Bob was ensuring that he work he was assigned got done to his boss’s satisfaction, would it be immoral?