How Much Privacy Should Steve Jobs Get?

VIDEO: Steve Jobs on Medical Leave
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Announcing his medical leave Monday, the man who gave the world the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod a host of other technological wonders, asked for privacy.

Should he get it?

In a company-wide e-mail Monday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs told staff members that he was taking his second medical leave of absence in two years for an indefinite period of time, for an undisclosed medical condition.

"I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy," Jobs wrote.

If Jobs were the average person battling an illness, granting his request would likely be a given. But as CEO of one of the country's most valuable companies -- and an iconic one at that -- Jobs is hardly the average person, and his announcement has renewed a debate over how much privacy he actually deserves.

Though some agree that the ailing CEO has a right to be tight-lipped, others argue that because Jobs' health is so closely tied to the health of his company, investors have the right to more information.

In an op-ed piece in The Atlantic, Ben Heineman Jr., a senior fellow at Harvard Law School's Program on Corporate Governance, wrote, "Everyone wishes Jobs a full and speedy recover. But, given Jobs' powerful position, we should know from what."

Securities laws require companies to disclose material information about the company. And, especially considering Jobs' medical history and the drop in stock price that accompanied the latest announcement, he said, "his current illness is surely material -- surely would affect an investor's decision to buy or sell securities."

The announcement of Jobs' most recent leave caused Apple's stock to drop 8 percent in international trading Monday, and the stock fell 2 percent when U.S. markets opened today after Monday's holiday.

But despite that correlation, not everyone agrees that he's obligated to offer more details.

Kara Swisher, a long-time technology reporter and co-editor of the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital blog, said Wall Street and the media know enough.

"Steve Jobs asks for privacy -- and he deserves it this time," Swisher wrote.

Not only does the public know about Jobs' bout with pancreatic cancer and his recent liver transplant, she said, "Steve Jobs has given his large audience more than enough since he got back after the last time he was sick."

'Fake Steve Jobs' Defends the Real CEO

Even Dan Lyons, the Newsweek reporter who has spent much of his career impersonating the Apple CEO with his "Fake Steve Jobs" blog, decided to retire his blog in a nod to the tech visionary.

"In my final Fake Steve post I urged my fellow 'filthy hacks' (Fake Steve's affectionate term for journalists) to leave Steve alone," he wrote in a Daily Beast post explaining his decision.

Analysts acknowledge that while investors might like more information, Apple is under no obligation to hand over anything else.

"As far as investors are concerned and analysts are concerned, this is not enough disclosure," said Gene Munster, an analyst with Piper Jaffray. But "legally, Apple's done all that they need to do. ….Everyone wants more but the reality is we're not going to get anything more."

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