Americans used to admire technology and had great respect for the companies responsible for bringing that technology to the consumers. Over the years, this respect has faltered and in many cases, turned into complete distrust. What made Americans change their minds?
While it is difficult to pinpoint that exact moment when tech companies went from trusted and admired to distrusted and, in many cases, despised, there have been several instances over the years that has eroded the trust of Americans.
The N.S.A. and its spying record has been under heavy scrutiny as of late, but its actions in the last year aren’t the only examples of government meddling run amok. Multiple companies including Facebook, Apple, and even Google have reportedly cooperated with the government and handed over personal information and activities of users. Most of the companies deny ever sharing data outside the constraints of the law, but the continued cooperation makes all Americans a little suspicious.
This does not mean that Americans are against spying. In fact, many believe it is necessary to keep us safe from terrorist threats. They do, however, feel that spying should be monitored and controlled to ensure all citizens a right to privacy and their trust is shaken in tech companies that cooperate with the government without any oversight.
Mishandling of Personal Data
People don’t want to be sold something every second of every day. Google learned that the hard way when they began displaying ads based on the content of their Gmail users’ emails. This type of information gathering both annoyed and alarmed many people once they discovered that Google was, essentially, reading their email. While this might not have been done by people, the fact that a fancy computer algorithm was handling the process didn’t put them any more at ease.
In 2010, Barnes & Noble understated the weight of the Nook e-reader and again in 2011 they overstated the resolution of the Nook, leading many Americans to even question if anything the tech companies say about their products are actually true. If companies will lie about technical specifications, what else are the capable of lying about?
Breaches of tech companies’ servers and the theft of data used to be a relatively rare crime. As the world has moved more and more online, however, these breaches are becoming more a regular occurrence. In fact, companies are consistently under attack from hackers trying to breach their systems and steal personal information. While most of these attacks are thwarted, there are many that are still successful. Most Americans know that these attacks are happening on a regular basis and it makes them question how safe their information really is even if they trust the tech company in question.
To be fair, most security breaches aren’t necessarily the fault of the tech companies. However, they do need to continue to improve the security of their systems to reduce the frequency of attacks and they need to communicate with their customers and inform them quickly if a breach does occur so their customers can take the necessary steps to protect themselves.
Tech companies have taken a real hit to their reputations as of late. While some of the issues that have shaken the trust Americans used to have in them are not their fault, there are still many situations that they could have avoided simply by remembering the importance of the relationship with their customers. If things remain at the status quo, it is likely that the distrust of tech companies will only increase. Eventually, this distrust could lead to revenue problems for some of the tech companies if they do not work to repair their damaged reputations. There is no doubt that tech companies need to improve not only their reputation, but also how they handle customers’ privacy concerns as we move ahead in the future.