While it's hard not to be exhilarated by the peaceful revolution in Egypt that ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, risk managers and executives at Google might be concerned about the role one of the company's local employees played in that process. Google regional marketing manager Wael Ghonim spent 12 days blindfolded in a prison run by Egypt's secret police after he was identified as a key figure using social media to help orchestrate demonstrations. And when Ghonim was released by the secret police, he went straight to Cairo's Tahrir Square, grabbed a microphone and rallied seemingly demoralized protesters to push on for Mubarak's resignation.

While Ghonim's role as a hero of the first social media revolution does not appear to have hurt the giant Internet company's reputation in Egypt, such activism might not play well for Google elsewhere, especially in authoritarian countries, ranging from China to Zimbabwe.

The fast-moving events that have ousted long-standing dictators in both Tunisia and Egypt are a wake-up call to global companies that they may not have been paying sufficient attention to yet another kind of risk–this time, political.

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