Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Tag
On the Chinese sweatshops, outrage is beginning to percolate. How dare they?! We didn’t know! Actually, we kinda knew, we just didn’t want to know, so we looked the other way. It has been public knowledge for some time that Apple’s ability to produce such beautiful devices in record time with astronomical profit margins was related to their China-based manufacturing. We may not have known exactly how bad the conditions were, but deep down inside, we knew they had to be pretty awful. Steve Jobs closed Apple’s corporate philanthropy shop when he rejoined as CEO. He was never shy about the primacy of well-designed products and profits above social issues.
Google has been in the crosshairs of government agencies and privacy organizations around the globe for years, and we’re now surprised that they are doing what we always suspected they were or would do? They are currently motivated by their need to compete with Facebook–the current uber-player in “helping” people disclose personal information to the masses (also known as advertisers and data aggregators). Is that really so bad?
At least with Google and Facebook, no one is getting hurt, and we get to use their services for free. Well, not exactly. According to law professor Lori Andrews, many people are being denied everything from employment to mortgages to health insurance based on what they search and share online. And, because of our lack of online privacy laws in the US, there is no requirement that those companies share their reasoning or prove its relevance. Those economists were on to something: there is no such thing as a free lunch.
How did we get here? Does the American consumer really value fast new versions of cool technology and free, efficient search and communications vehicles more than we value human dignity, privacy or even human life? Are we so busy between work and family that we’ll accept any fine print tradeoff a company puts past us? To some degree, yes.
But, the blame is not entirely ours. Facebook has been rightly criticized for being downright tricky in its attempts to create more sharing outside people’s network of “friends.” In addition to trying some of Facebook’s old tricks with Google+, Google’s promises to anonymize data after a set period of time have always been marred by questions about the quality of their eraser. Apple only released its full review of its China operations within the last few months.
In the environmental space, American consumers have demonstrated a willingness to choose, and in some cases, pay more for green products. So much so, that “greenwashing” emerged as a problem earlier this century. As the fog of ambivalence starts to burn off, technology companies may find there is more money to be made from selling us on their virtue than they can make in profits from vice.