American firms with contracts overseas may be rethinking how their representatives conduct business after Egyptian authorities released a Google executive credited with launching massive protests in Cairo.
"There's no question that there are a whole bunch of corporate security officers and corporate risk officers that, after what happened with Google today, are thinking about the policies of their expatriates on the ground in a whole host of countries, and saying, 'We need to think very carefully about this,'" Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm based in New York, told Fox News.
Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google Inc. marketing manager who was a key organizer of the online campaign that sparked the first protests in Egypt on Jan. 25, joined anti-government protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday, a day after declaring during a televised interview that he and other protesters are not "traitors."
"We will not abandon our demand, and that is the departure of the regime," Ghonim told thousands of demonstrators.
After 12 days in detention, from which he was released Monday, the Egyptian-born Ghonim dubbed the demonstrations a "revolution of the youth of the Internet."
"The history of the last 50 years has shown that there is one force that neither regime nor corporation can ever harness completely, and that is the idealism and energy of youth itself," said Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based policy institute.
In the era of globalization, youth energy in many countries has been invigorated by the Internet -- and that has corporations developing new policies to regulate and, if necessary, monitor the online activities of company personnel. At the same time, companies are trying to balance between protecting employees' basic rights without antagonizing host regimes.
"Increasingly, your principal client is also the government that you're working with locally," Bremmer said. "And you need to understand what that government wants from you, what that government fears about you, especially in authoritarian states that are potentially very impacted by the expansion of technology."
In countries like Iran, social networking has not achieved the same market penetration seen in Egypt today, enabling the regime to keep a much tighter surveillance grip over networking sites than Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak does now. Analysts say that helps to explain the failure of a burgeoning opposition movement two years ago to overthrow the Islamic regime fronted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But where U.S. companies are prevented from doing business with Iran, they are in countries like Saudi Arabia and China, which have managed -- in ways Egypt has not -- to neutralize the Internet, leaving them in theory less susceptible to tactics that led to the massive protests in Egypt.
Bremmer said companies abroad should still be on the lookout for potential unrest and have a policy on "how you should react."
"In a global economic environment over the next 10-20 years where 70-plus percent of the world's economic growth is going to happen in emerging markets, there's going to be a lot more volatility," he said.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday that many countries are not generating the economic or political opportunities that young people in the region want and deserve, and that creates a broad regional challenge from the Persian Gulf to North Africa.
"How that unfolds will vary country to country," Crowley said. "You know, the challenge in Morocco is not the same as the challenge in Yemen. You know, Tunisia is a country with a fairly significant middle class. Yemen is the poorest country in the region. So the solutions will differ, you know, from one to the other. But it is vitally important for governments to respond to this new dynamic in the region."
Bremmer said he doesn't think companies with histories of working in other countries will be too phased by changing societies.
"If they're not already on the ground in the Middle East, this will spook them a little bit," he said. "It will make them a little more cautious. ... Those that have been in these countries are not going to leave dramatically."
Daniel Karson, executive managing director and counsel at Kroll Associates, Inc., a risk consulting company based in New York, added that Ghonim appears to an "exceptional circumstance" rather than the rule.
"Every company is different, every country is different," Karson told FoxNews.com.
"If there was an individual working for a very prominent company who engaged conspicuously in political conduct, I will tell the company that they should caution their employees that their … political activity in some climates carries risk. ... And in a robust democracy, that works. In Myanmar, that doesn't work."