October at Hazy

Another one bites the dust

Over the last few month Google, Facebook, and Amazon have all faced individual data crises, leaving Apple to complete the quartet in October. And the tech giant duly obliged.

The Daily Telegraph reported that under the cover of this years' hardware launch, Apple quietly sent out a bug patch that prevented attackers from making the most of a security flaw, which granted access to users devices on public WiFi networks. Whilst nobody is suggesting the tech giant was trying to distract anyone, the timing is certainly interesting.

With the political, media and consumer gaze focused squarely on the actions tech companies are taking to protect the privacy of individuals, the potential brand damage that data breaches or security flaws can pose is greater than ever. The following day Apple dropped out of the trillion-dollar club - a prophetic example of things to come for companies who don't take privacy seriously?

Sign of the times

For those that have followed month after month of scandal, it came as no surprise that Gartner included 'digital ethics and privacy' as one of it's top ten strategic technology trends for 2019. With individuals increasingly concerned about how their personal information is being used, and stored, by organisations in both the private and public sector, companies not proactively tackling the issue face a backlash.

Ultimately an organisation's position on privacy must be driven by its broader position on ethics and trust. Shifting from privacy to ethics moves the conversation beyond 'are we compliant' toward 'are we doing the right thing'?

Regulation is starting to turn the tide. But for more companies to take comprehensive action it also has to make sense financially. Over the last decade, we've seen the emergence of 'B-corps', companies rewarded for their adherence to 'business for good, not profit'. A similar process is now being applied to cybersecurity and data privacy, with companies recognising the marketing and brand value associated with treating customer data ethically.

Rage against the (search) machine

Google faced an internal revolt earlier this month when tens of thousands of employees walked out in response to Google reportedly shielding and rewarding men who had been accused of sexually harassing their female co-workers.

The brilliant blog 'how to kill your tech industry' by Marie Hicks highlights the history of female representation in tech innovation, and why it's so vital that we encourage more women to pursue careers within the sector. Tech giants such as Google should be leading this encouragement, rather than dealing with covers ups and accusations of malpractice.

Without the fair representation of minorities and genders, we run the risk of creating solutions that adversely favour or are biased towards a dominant group of people - which, in the tech sector, happens to be white males. Look no further than Amazon's failed application of artificial intelligence to aid the company's recruitment process. Having been asked to sift through job applications, the program began selecting a disproportionate number of men due to the poor training data it had been fed.

For the tech sector to change for the better, we must encourage participation from all backgrounds - not just the incumbent demographic. This means making sure the systems we apply are not biased from the start.

Photo credits Bekir Dönmez from Unsplash

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