Several weeks ago our post about ‘The Comsumer Manifesto’ explained that businesses and organisations using technology to accumulate, analyse and use data must ensure that their activities were fair, transparent, and generated ‘win-win’ outcomes. Over recent years it has become clear that there has been a cavalier disregard when it comes to using technology for such purposes. It seems we are getting very close (if we aren’t there already) to a very significant technological tipping point.
Close to the last straw?
Techcrunch recently reported that some popular iPhone apps include technology that secretly records the screen when people are using them. Such apps include Air Canada, Hollister, Expedia, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hotels.com and Singapore Airlines – along with a customer experience analytics firm called ‘Glassbox’ that allows developers to embed smart technological ‘session replay’ capabilities into their apps. These record and replay user interactions.
One step too far over the line
The building tsunami
Apart from regulatory moves in places such as the EU to enhance data protection, security and privacy for individual users, with a particular emphasis on the ‘big tech’ companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple and other large data gathering networks, there is now a tsunami beginning to build at the grass roots level. For example, Stanford University in the US has traditionally been a ‘farm system for the tech-giants’. However, the increasing flow of negative news about the unethical and immoral practices that such tech giants have supported, (both internally and through 3rd parties) is changing attitudes at the university. Ethics and the social impacts of are now becoming mainstream themes. Increasing numbers of students now regard Silicon Valley in a different light. In the past getting a job with ‘big tech’ was the goal to achieve. But they are becoming concerned about being associated with ‘evil tech-monsters’.
To every action there is a reaction
The Theranos unethical behaviour story; Facebook and Cambridge Analytica; Facebook and Russian political interference; Uber and all its issues; and now the Glassbox/iPhone Apps are changing the view of both staff and students at Stanford as they look at future opportunity areas in the tech sector. Increasing numbers are concerned about the way tech company business models are developed, or working for tech companies that have poor ethical and moral values. In Australia, the financial sector is now suffering from a similar malaise after major recent scandals. The lesson for tech businesses and their boards of directors is that moral and ethical values are just as important, if not more so, than profit generation. Unless companies take a more balanced approach, they may find it a challenge to recruit and retain top talent in future years, as well as retain the trust of their customers. Without both, the bottom line will surely suffer.