The Fall of Big Tech’s Integrity

Integrity is a pretty encompassing term.  It can apply to virtually any situation where some type of business transaction occurs. We see the term used in corporate mission statements and in executive presentations, but it doesn’t feel like the adoption and embodiment of the term integrity are taking place.  In fact, many times it’s quite the opposite.

Eagle Hill published a research paper stating that fifty-four percent of survey respondents believe that corporate integrity has gotten worse over the last five years, and they believe that the decline starts at the top. The study also states that only fifteen percent of those surveyed say that corporate executives have the most integrity in the workplace, while nearly half say that their colleagues have the most integrity. 

Sadly, the downward trend doesn’t seem to stop there.  According to the survey, seventy percent of Americans believe that integrity has fallen across the nation, and a whopping seventy-five percent believe that integrity has declined in government institutions.

What seems to be sparking the downward trend in Integrity?

The sheer size of this piece would make it unreadable if we tried to list all the factors that are impacting integrity, so we’re going to try to narrow it down and provide a few significant trends that are causing people to doubt the integrity of corporations.

The buying and selling of your personal information

It’s no secret to anyone reading this piece that their personal information is being sold.  What is interesting though is that most companies like Google, Facebook, PayPal, Oracle and others will tell you “We don’t sell your information”.  However, what they do instead is let advertisers and partners pay these providers to show you personalized advertisements.  While this is somewhat seemingly less intrusive, companies are still selling access to us, the users of the carrier products. And the impact is affecting billions of people.  Facebook alone has over 2 billion monthly active users.

The buying and selling of your location information

Telecom carriers are also in the business of profiting from our personal information. According to a recent piece published by, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T have all been caught selling their user’s tracked phone location data to third parties, enabling tracking of the phones themselves.  The technology being used is the same as is used by law enforcement.  That means that when your number is entered into the tracking software (all they need is your phone number) they can find the location of your phone within 550 yards. As of right now, according to, mobile carriers are not held accountable for any misuse of phone location data.  You would think there would be some type of protection for smartphone users based on location, but apparently, there isn’t.  So there’s nothing currently stopping providers from selling your location data, except, of course, integrity.

It’s time for a new approach

Clearly, none of us would consent to being tracked by anyone, much less a bunch of companies that we don’t know, and people at those companies that we don’t know, having access to our location at any given time.  Nor would we consent to have our personal information sold to advertisers so that Google, Facebook, and others can directly target us with ads they’ve been paid to show us.

With the diversity of methods being used to sell our personal and location information, there isn’t a single answer to solving the problem of theft of our personal information. Instead, perhaps we try applying some different criteria to potential service providers and hold them to a higher standard. I believe the focus should be on Privacy, Security, and Integrity.

Privacy: This is a really encompassing term, and gets thrown around quite a lot.  When I think about privacy, I think about my own personal information.  What does the service provider do with my personal information?  Are they selling my email address?  Are they selling my personal address and phone number?  Are they mining my files and content that I upload to their cloud so they can see what my interests are and target their marketing algorithm to blow up my inbox with ads?  What guarantees do I have that my personal information won’t be sold to any 3rd party mailing-list company that comes along? Perhaps it’s just me, but I feel like privacy should be at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to who I am entrusting to be the custodian of my personal information and my files, regardless of what type of service they’re providing. After all, I’m paying for a service.  No one should be allowed to profit from my information.  No one.

Security: When looking at providers that manage files and data (like Google, Facebook, AT&T, and other cloud providers) criteria like file encryption and file management come into play. File encryption is a great tool to protect files in transit and in storage, and many providers offer encryption services. So, the question here becomes “who holds the decryption keys?”.  Surprisingly (or not), most cloud providers also hold your file decryption keys and can easily unlock anything you’ve encrypted. So, if someone else is holding the security keys that unlock your files, then their encryption service really isn’t offering you much in the way of protection for your digital content. My personal recommendation is to find a provider who doesn’t hold the decryption keys.  So, ask the questions.  If the information isn’t on their website, reach out to them and make sure you’re the only one with access to the key that unlocks your files.

Integrity: Did you know that 113 Fortune 500 companies do not list “integrity” or “morals” in their core values? When you hire someone to perform a service, they should be open and upfront with what happens to your data and what protections they provide you personally to ensure your safety (and that of your personal information) while using their service(s).  Instead, companies bury this information in their EULA and the Terms of Service. This is because they’re only interested in protecting themselves.  Regardless of what they tell you, they have little interest in you or your content other than as a means to enhance their bottom line.  So, anything that can be done to monetize your info is typically just part of their daily routine.

It may seem like a small step forward, but when we’re shopping for services that will collect some of our personal information and even our files, photos, videos, and other digital content, we do our diligence and choose providers that can clearly demonstrate their motivations to protect our Privacy, to ensure the Security of our personal information and our digital content, and to demonstrate some Integrity to the other providers how to treat consumers with the highest level of regard and respect.  After all, without us as consumers, these companies really don’t have anything.

And if you don’t think that one person’s choice can make a difference in the bigger picture, you’re mistaken.  Because every journey starts with a single step.  I’m taking mine.  Will you?

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