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Do you trust them?

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By Rom Feria

In the age of “data is the new oil”, our personal data is even more valuable to companies than ever before. Delegating your personal data under the care of tech companies requires a certain level of trust. The question is how far can you tolerate those companies that breach your trust? Is a one time misstep enough to distrust them, or does it need to be at least twice, thrice? What is your threshold? Personally, one time is more than enough, specially if it was intentional. Here is a short list, in no particular order, of some of the tech companies that I find difficult to trust.

OnePlus intentionally collected users of its smartphones, and dialed back only after it was discovered by a security researcher. It is a good thing that I don’t even plan on using a OnePlus device, but readers must take this into account.

Trend Micro’s Mac applications were booted off the Apple Mac App Store after it was discovered that they were collecting data. Trend Micro was supposed to protect you and your data from malicious software that collect your data, and infects your computer. This incident, which Trend Micro tried to downplay, speaks volumes about its intention to breach your trust.

Google has a long list of questionable behaviors. They were collecting personal data from open wifi networks using their Street View mapping vehicles. Google was found guilty of collecting data from users of the Safari web browser. Google, by design, ignores the “Location History” settings, and continues to collect location data even when it is off. Google’s Home Mini, its voice-activated home assistant, was released to the public with a feature that secretly records conversations without user consent. And the most recent, Google shuts down Google+(consumer version) after discovering a vulnerability that exposes user data in March. This is not the issue, the issue is that Google decided NOT to disclose this because of some silly reason.

Facebook is the only company that can match, or even exceed Google, when it comes to being trustworthy. I can cite a few examples, but you can find a more complete list from http://stallman.org/facebook.html. Who could forget the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal - this was not because of a bug, which could be forgivable, but this was by design. The feature that allows third-party companies to access vast amounts of user data was planned, intentional. In addition, Facebook also collected SMS and phone calls without consent. Speaking of SMS, Facebook encourage users to enable SMS-based 2 Factor-Authentication (2FA) for security purposes, and yet exploiting users’ phone numbers and using it for ad targeting. How can you trust Facebook, when Facebook experiments on its users and their emotions?

Remember, there are unintentional data breaches, due to software bugs and vulnerabilities, and these are forgivable, provided that they’re not due to sloppiness or irresponsibility. However, there are software features really designed to intentionally cause harm - something that an ordinary sorry would not be enough to forgive them. Now how about doing this multiple times?
As they say, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. And to me, I find these companies untrustworthy, and you should, too.

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