Tech companies have a bad reputation, especially among those who pay attention to more than just the user interface of their favorite apps. That doesn't mean they are entirely bad--in fact they have created technologies that genuinely make our lives better in plenty of meaningful ways. At the same time, there are many examples of tech companies doing stuff that most of us would probably rather they didn't do.
Which leads us to an article from Slate on Wednesday, that lists the 30 'most evil' tech companies, a ranking based on what experts think of the companies' behavior. Sure, some of the criticism is well deserved. As the article points out, tech companies have been no stranger to scandals, whether it be massive data breaches, privacy violations, and even outright fraud.
At the top of Slate's 'evil' list are the two most prominent companies in the lives of most Americans, Amazon and Facebook. For me, the only surprise was that Amazon actually outranked Facebook.
In the online retailer's case, Slate writes that Amazon's "shipping operation has led to burnout, injuries, and deaths, all connected to a warehouse operation that, while paying a decent minimum wage, is so efficient in part because it treats its human workers like robots who sometimes get bathroom breaks."
There's also the fact that the company makes over $320 per minute (in profit), and can only manage to scrape together about a half an hour's worth to donate to helping those affected by the catastrophic wildfires in Australia.
Facebook, on the other hand, could probably fill a few articles with reasons why it has a troubled reputation. I know, I've written plenty. Slate highlights the social network's decisions to allow fake political advertisements, its effect on the 2016 election, numerous data and privacy breaches, and "most frighteningly of all, the corporation is controlled by a single unelected man who is determined to dodge any kind of ideological stance in the name of higher revenues."
That would be Mark Zuckerberg, who I've argued before is most certainly Facebook's greatest problem.
Google arguably has the greatest impact on the day to day lives of everyone with a smartphone or computer, and comes in third on the list. It knows far more about us than even Facebook, controls half of all internet traffic and 95 percent of online searches. It also recently shut down internal dissent and discussion at its all-company meeting, which it brought to an end this year.
Which leads us to an important lesson. I sometimes feel like I'm repeating myself, but your brand is ultimately the way people feel about you. That feeling is the sum of every interaction they have with your business, whether it's with a product, a customer service rep, a data breach, or a news article.
You can't control every one of those experiences, but it's worth considering whether or not the story you're telling people about your business matches the experience they are having with you, and the way they feel about it. If not, you have a serious problem. That's exactly the case with tech companies--especially those at the top of the list.
You can argue this list is mostly the opinion of people who spend too much time thinking about tech companies, and that's fine. You can also argue that the value they bring is far greater than the evil they may do (though you'll get a lot more pushback here). But, once you know, isn't it worth stopping to think about the amount of influence we allow companies to wield over our lives?
Certainly millions--and in some cases, billions--of us continue to give them our money, and even more importantly, our personal information, every single day. It's more alarming when you think about the disconnect between how we actually behave, and what we say we think about big tech companies.
In fact, I'm not entirely sure that we don't get exactly the tech companies we deserve.