Four lessons for your business from 2018’s tech scandals
2018 was a difficult year for tech companies. From the fallout Facebook faced in the Cambridge Analytica disaster to Elon Musk’s social media faux pas and beyond, many technology companies will be happy to have last year in their review mirror.
As entrepreneurs, what can you learn from some of the biggest scandals that happened in tech in 2018?
1. Own Your Mistakes
Mistakes are going to happen, there’s no way round it. You’ll make matters worse if you try to hide them. Consider Google’s 2018 troubles. The search giant came under major fire after it’s contract with the Chinese government to build a censored search engine was revealed, conjuring up many complaints about transparency and freedom of information on the Internet. This was bad enough, but Google also had to come clean last year about a data breach it had tried to conceal – a breach that affected over half of a million of its users.
Google’s position as a tech behemoth remains secure, but its lack of transparency and failure to disclose a serious breach has seriously hurt its credibility and reputation. Like other scandals in the past year, this could have been avoided. Google should have acted quickly and owned the mistake from the outset. People are generally more willing to forgive an honest effort to make things right.
2. Act with Integrity
Warren Buffet, one of the world’s most successful business people, named three essential qualities he looks for in an employee: energy, intelligence and integrity. These three qualities apply equally to entrepreneurs, and as Uber discovered in 2018, acting without integrity can cause significant pain.
The context: Uber was sued by Waymo over Uber’s alleged theft of trade secrets related to self-driving auto technology. The case centered on a former Google employee who left Google and brought the IP to Uber. The case never went to trial but ultimately Waymo settled for a whopping $245M in equity. While settlement alone isn’t an admission of wrongdoing, Uber clearly expected some culpability if the case had proceeded to trial. A situation that could have been avoided at the onset if the employee acted with integrity, and rather than trying to profit on something he didn’t own outright.
3. Stay true to your roots
Success can be one of the sweetest things you’ll ever taste, but it can be dangerous. When Mark Zuckerberg formed Facebook in 2004, the platform was essentially a socialised version of the phone book. Users could create profiles, connect with other users and share information about their lives. Even today, Facebook still lists ‘Build Social Value’ as one of its five core values.
But in 2018, the social media company announced that a data firm called Cambridge Analytica had harvested the data of over 50 million of its users, and that data had been used by the firm in an effort to sway the 2016 election. Mark Zuckerberg would find himself in a tense multi-day session of questioning by Congress on how and why this happened. At least one of the reasons is that Facebook had forgotten the roots of its success – its users and their trust in the platform. Whether you find yourself on a growth trajectory of success or you are still struggling to find your way, remember to stay true to who you are and what you represent.
4. Keep your data safe
This is the age of the data breach. For many businesses its not a question of it, it’s a question of when. Last year the Allianz Risk Barometer reported that cyber attacks incidents are now the biggest concern for UK business and the second biggest concern worldwide. It’s clear from all of the above that if the data had been kept safe in the first place then none of the above scandals would have happened. You need to ensure that your security protocols are up to date, that your multi-level user access gives the right levels of access and controls to the right people and that your disaster recovery procedures are in place.
As you consider some of the biggest scandals that happened to major tech companies in 2018, take a look at last year and examine your own mistakes. Chances are you didn’t face public outcry against your company or a multi-million dollar judgment, but these examples underline the importance of behaving with integrity in business.
Four Business Solutions offer Contract Insight – contract management software – to help you better manage and secure your business. If you’d like a free trial to understand how Contract Insight can boost your cyber security, please call us on 0800 6250 025.
John O’Brien is the CEO at Four Business Solutions, global business consultants and software integrators providing business processes improvements in Finance, Supply Chain & Operations, across a broad range of industries.