An Obsession with Secrets – The New York Times


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Before visitors set foot in many tech company offices, they must sign a (digital) pledge not to babble about what they heard or saw there. Religious leaders in the United States have signed legally binding agreements not to talk about it in detail. Online worship collaboration with Facebook. And Amazon has asked testers of a revealing body-scan tech. Do not reveal anything about the experience.

Confidentiality agreements like this became a fixture For many influential individuals and institutions who want to keep secrets, sometimes for understandable reasons, sometimes for horrifying reasons. Confidentiality Agreement and similar legal agreements used to cover up sexual abuse and harassment and workplace discrimination.

NDAs are certainly not limited to the tech industry. However, the power of big tech companies and the popularity of their products make enforced privacy initiatives particularly dangerous because of the way NDAs prevent the public from fully understanding how these companies shape the world.

The use of the Privacy Policy, including in trivial or routine situations like visiting a tech office, is ironic in an industry that praises openness and transparency. Facebook says it values ​​freedom of expression, but it may prevent you from talking about the grapes you ate at the company’s cafeteria.

Yes, there are often good reasons for people and companies to demand privacy or try to prevent competitors from learning their best ideas. And because many people, including journalists, are eager to learn about potential tech products or projects, there may be a higher risk of material leaks from these companies.

But it’s also easy to fault many tech companies’ willingness to throw NDAs around like confetti as silly and silly as possible. disturbing roads. Ifeoma Ozoma, Pinterest’s former public policy manager, is among those pushing to ban restrictive NDAs. people who are discriminated against in the workplace without speaking in public about their experiences. Some laws restrict confidentiality agreements if they hold sexual abuse or dangerous products is a secret. (Persons filing charges against abusive NDAs or other restrictive workplace legal agreements usually female or black tech workers like Ozoma.)

The public would never have found out if tech workers hadn’t taken the risk of violating the Privacy Policy at their company. scam at blood testing company Theranos, NS emotional and physical health risks It’s a situation faced by those who scrutinize Facebook posts containing violence and sex and details of Russian online propaganda to create voter chaos in the US.

“The broad reach of these companies is what makes it the biggest problem for them to use exploitative deals,” Ozoma told me in an email. “California-based companies export extremely restrictive, silencing deals to every corner of the world. And they do all this by claiming they care about their right to speech and freedom of expression.”

Airbnb may harm other customers when they sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement if they encounter bedbugs in rental homes or non-disclosure clauses limiting customers from making public complaints about their experience with dental aligners. Is it fair to Amazon and other companies? require elected officials to sign non-disclosure agreements about projects that use taxpayer dollars?

The requirement to sign a Confidentiality Agreement before entering tech companies stunned me when I first encountered this. It feels like an unnecessary and trivial strength exercise. (Another question: Are these agreements enforceable?)

Many sensitive details are discussed in investment banks, law firms, news organizations and hospitals, and as far as I know there are no confidentiality agreements for anyone who walks through the door. Instead, employees are careful not to discuss secrets where strangers can hear them.

Again, NDAs are not technology specific. Trump The White House used them. Some celebrities apparently need NDAs friend or romantic partners. my colleagues reported Last year, many companies required their employees to sign non-disclosure agreements in order to receive severance packages.

Companies and people have legitimate reasons to keep most of their secrets, but they can choose other legal avenues to do so, including more limited privacy provisions. When powerful and trend-setting tech companies use a Privacy Policy for anything and everything, it often protects them at the expense of the rest of us.

Tip of the Week

Are your wireless headphones more frustrating than magical? Brian X ChenThe New York Times’ consumer technology columnist is here to share your {SCREAMS} and let us know when to give up:

Wireless headphones are great. They allow you to move freely, are easier to lift than wired headphones, and have good sound quality. Recently, however, I’ve logged out of wireless headphones for one type of use: video calls on the computer.

Because I’ve been working remotely for over a year, my Apple AirPods have been unreliable for video calls on my desktop. AirPods would sometimes disappear from the list of available Bluetooth devices on my Mac, forcing me to reset my headphones. Other times, I couldn’t select the wireless headset as microphone or speaker when I entered a new video call.

I’ve tried a number of troubleshooting steps to no avail and have seen others have similar headaches. Then I read an article by my colleague Lauren Dragan on this topic at Wirecutter, our sister publication that tests products. turned into shape Bluetooth headphones often encounter problems connecting to computers — this happens so often that manufacturers emphasize that wireless headphones are “mobile-optimized” and do not guarantee that they will work well with computers.

This makes sense to me: We tend to upgrade smartphones more regularly than computers, so mobile devices probably have newer Bluetooth technology that works better with newer headphones.

After considering all the video calls that had gone wrong for me, I bit the bullet and got it relatively cheap. Old-style wired headphones from Logitech only for my virtual meetings. It costs $25 and works perfectly every time. Sometimes, you just have to know when to call, giving up on fancy technology.

  • Beijing’s invisible hand: The company behind China’s wildly popular WeChat app suspended new user registrationsAs my colleague Paul Mozur said, the new regulatory pressure has increased fears. In recent months, Chinese authorities have conducted a series of tech reviews affecting Uber-like Didi, food delivery services and online tutoring start-ups.

  • Questioning a technology frequently used in law enforcement: Vice’s Motherboard broadcast sometimes uses ShotSpotter, a technology that detects gunshots and alerts law enforcement. modified data on the location and time of gunshots At the request of the police departments.

  • Online video that brings attention and danger: An Iraqi teenager recorded an online video listing his country’s problems and asking President Biden for help. The video got huge and my colleague Jane Arraf reported it. young people flooded She is afraid to leave the house with thousands of negative social media comments.

Mother and son started making origami cranes to mark the passage of time and learn about perseverance during the pandemic. They took the last pictures of 465 cranes last month.


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