Posting Private Information and Hacked Documents
Throughout my professional career I have been asked to sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements. I must abide by those agreements. The problem is that others will use FOIA, hacking, stealing, or other methods to obtain your confidential files and distribute them-- breaking confidentiality and also screaming non-transparency.
So when people are somehow acquiring private documents you never shared and making your personal banking information known, it is time to back away from the discussion. My address is being posted next to phrases like "poison peddler" and "he gives children cancer". The goal is to ignite mob action, to inspire one crazy soul to harm me or my family.
At 2:38 AM the night that Balter posted my home address and the internet my dog was going ballistic. Maybe he does that every night. Maybe it was a coyote or deer near the house.
But my wife and I have to think, is this someone coming to harm us? Are we going to get a jar of flaming gasoline through the bedroom window? This is terrorism, and Michael Balter knew exactly what he was doing when he puts my private information next to claims from his errant interpretations of private documents.
How do people get documents you never distributed? Why did he redact them? What didn't he want you to see? Why are stolen, hacked, manufactured or otherwise obtained private documents celebrated? How is it even legal?
Having to close bank accounts, re-establish auto bill pay and cut up debit cards is a colossal hassle. It was especially awful because I have to travel abroad and can't get a new debit card in time. So it goes.
Here is the last thing I will say on the "consulting" issue.
1. I was hired by a law firm to analyze some old data.
2. I was bound by confidentiality to not reveal any information about the nature of the work or the parties involved. I respect that commitment to this day.
3. This was work on my vacation time, it was approved by the university, and has no direct connection to my job, my research or my outreach programs.
4. In these activities (mostly held in Denver, as shown in the receipt posted by Balter) I never met with anyone currently working for the companies in question.
5. In these activities I never visited a company in question.
6. I had a wonderful time working with brilliant attorneys to sort out a long-standing question that settled a dispute between two parties. It was one of the most intellectually exciting times of my life.
7. I was one of many expert scientists involved. None of them have special disclosures on their websites and none of them have been harassed about it. None of them consider the work "consulting"- we were subject matter experts in a private mediation.
8. I was paid well for my time. I did not want to do this job, I did not have time for it, but it was firmly in my area of expertise and I was probably the best person on the planet to do the work (time would show that I figured out something none of the other experts on either side could figure out, so that was really cool). I gladly accepted the generous amount they offered.
9. I disclosed outside confidential work on my website. After consulting with the Associate Dean who handles outside work disclosures she told me how to properly disclose that I was working for a law firm while still maintaining confidentiality. The website stated that I was working for a law firm as a subject matter expert in a confidential, private arbitration.
10. These are the facts. Some call me a liar because my words don't match boilerplate letters and their conspiratorial interpretations. If you think this was "consulting for Bayer" then fine, think that. My account here is an exact discussion of what my job was. If you think it is consulting for a company when I never visited the company for this matter, never spoke to anyone with the company, or dealt with science in the company, then think that. I do not consider that consulting. My website and all public disclosures will reflect these truths.
11. And I would LOVE to consult for Bayer or any other company that understands my capacities in research or communications. I'm particularly adept at communications and messaging, so reach out if there is any special project that falls outside of my normal work responsibilities.
And by the way, this is old news. We discussed transparency and confidentiality a year ago on my podcast.
Forward. My research is going great, I'm working on a number of books and other projects. I love my life at home. I have 40 fruit trees, and tons more of you count bananas (that makes me happy). I am surrounded with beautiful friends and colleagues. I'm running well again even though a doctor told me that I'd never run again on my screwed up knees (ha ha). My lab will probably publish 8-10 papers in 2019, and I think we're going to create quite a stir in how we farm in urban environments.
The only thing weighing me down is the endless harassment online and the train of onerous public records requests that steal my time and waste enormous public funding.
So I am going to shed that part of my public face. I'll still maintain my public Facebook page and run the podcast.
In conclusion, is this a victory for Balter, Biofortified, Thacker, USRTK and the rest of the folks that want me eliminated from an important conversation?
No. They just created a more focused, disciplined and committed proponent of public advocacy of science, and I will use that platform with new media, new ideas, and more effective science communication.