Top 9 Instances In Which Big Tech Companies Were Caught Lying

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Top 9 Instances In Which Big Tech Companies Were Caught Lying

CORPORATE LIES

Companies often lie. Most of the time, it’s just white lies in order to keep an upcoming product launch a secret or minimize leaks to the media. For example, when Craig Federighi, aka Hair Force One, was asked about the upcoming virtual reality headset, he played dumb. 




Obviously, these sorts of lies don’t ruin or worse abuse public trust, but the same cannot be said about all corporate lies. Over the years, we’ve seen lies completely destroy companies as was the case with Enron and more recently FTX. 


But those were just the handful of instances in which companies actually had to pay for their actions. More times than not, companies can get away scot-free or with a relatively small fine. So, here are the top instances in which tech companies were caught lying. 



1. GOOGLE LOCATION TRACKING

Getting straight into it, we have none other than Google. By now, we all know that Google tracks anything and everything about us. But, while that is the default, Google remains adamant that you can turn off most if not all tracking by simply switching around a few settings. 


You know, by enabling Do Not Track, disabling location tracking, or turning off microphone access. These sorts of precautions should theoretically prevent Google from collecting these tidbits of information, and that’s what Google assures everyone on all of their blog articles and Q&As. 


With that being said, I don’t even think you’d be surprised to hear that this isn’t exactly true. It turns out that Google has enough data about each of us that even if we turn off location tracking, they’re still able to track our location. 


You know, based on our searches, what products and services we interact with, our demographics, and so on. Google never admitted to this but they did settle with California late last year for $93 million which is usually the closest we can get to an admission. 



2 . YAHOO DATA BREACH

One of the main reasons that people are against such data collection is not because Google and Facebook are gonna turn around and use it for advertising but due to the risks of a data breach. As such, these companies aren’t exactly jumping up and down to tell the public about such incidents as was the case with Yahoo. 


In mid-2016, 200 million Yahoo account credentials went up for sale on the dark web for just 3 bitcoin. At current prices, that’s about $130,000 but back in the day, that was only $1,800. Imagine being able by the usernames and passwords of 200 million accounts for just $1,800, that’s insane. 


Naturally, this raised a lot of red flags as to where exactly all of this data came from, and the number one suspect was obviously Yahoo. Yahoo would play dumb and begin investigating only to eventually admit that there was indeed a data breach that affected 500 million users. 


And you know what the kicker was? It turns out that the data breach actually happened nearly 2 years ago in late 2014. So, either Yahoo was so incompetent that they didn’t even noticed that half a billion people’s data got leaked or they did know and they decided to not say anything about it until they had to. 


It’s probably the latter though given that they would pay a $35 million fine to the SEC for not disclosing the incident. But, it gets even worse. Just a couple of months after admitting to this data breach, Yahoo decided to come clean about another data breach that happened even earlier. 


Apparently, Yahoo had a data breach that affected 1 billion users in late 2013 itself. This breach leaked names, email addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and security questions and answers. And it apparently took Yahoo over 3 years to figure it out. Speak about an embarrassing track record. 



3 . AMAZON SELLER DATA

As you can see, one of the shadiest parts of big tech is their data practices, and it’s no different with our next example: Amazon. Thanks to Alexa and their Ring security systems, Amazon has a ton of data about us, but this incident actually centers around their 3rd party marketplace. 


One of the most popular online businesses is to partner with Amazon through Amazon FBA. You can buy a bunch of units from Alibaba, spin up your own listing, and Amazon will handle all of the logistics of your business. 


But, while Amazon makes the whole business a lot easier, it’s up to you in the end to put up the capital for inventory, see if there’s product market fit, and often spend thousands if not tens of thousands on advertising. 


Considering this, it would be quite unfair if Amazon spied on which products actually ended up working and then turned around and sold those products themselves. That’s why this practice is explicitly against Amazon’s corporate policy. 


But, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation, it turns out that Amazon executives don’t actually care all that much about this policy. In fact, they even developed workarounds to get access to this privileged seller data. But, I mean, is that really surprising given what these companies are capable of? 



4 . FACEBOOK METRICS

Anyway, moving away from data-related scandals, we have companies trying to make themselves look better than they are. Ironically, this is a place where Google and YouTube actually excel. 


You can see the exact metrics of any YouTube video or Google Ad. This includes impressions, views, click-through rates, conversion rates, and so on. Turns out that Google is actually quite transparent when it comes to their advertising partners, but the same cannot be said about their competitors. 


In late 2018, for example, Facebook was caught inflating sponsored video engagement metrics. It’s not clear if this error was done on purpose, but what we do know for sure is that Facebook was aware of this issue for a year and they did nothing about it. 


And we’re not talking about some marginal discrepancy either like 5 or 10%. According to Facebook themselves, the metrics were being inflated by 60 to 80%. 


According to the plaintiffs, the metrics were actually being inflated by 150 to 900%. Either way, this was a big issue that should’ve been addressed as soon as possible. 



5 - TWITTER METRICS

But at least with Facebook, this appears to be an oversight that they didn’t care to fix. With Twitter or I guess X, it appears that the oversight is the intention itself. If you’ve scrolled through Twitter over the past year, you’ve probably seen some pretty high video views. Views that seem way too good to be true. 


image of interview with Trump and Tucker Carlson

This interview with Trump and Tucker Carlson for example apparently got over 230 million views within just 24 hours. For perspective, that’s over twice even the Super Bowl’s viewership. And that’s largely because of Twitter’s sketchy way of counting views. 


This video didn’t get 230 million views but rather 230 million impressions. Aka, 230 million people scrolled past it. The number of people who actually watched at least 2 seconds of the video was only 14.8 million. That’s obviously still an insane view count but only a mere 6% of the displayed 238 million. 


Why does Twitter display the impression count instead of the actual view count? Well, probably to make it seem like the Twitter community is way more active than it really is and appeal to advertisers. 



6 . NETFLIX METRICS

It’s not just these social media platforms that like to stretch the truth about their views either. Someone else who has resorted to puffing up the truth is Netflix. The sad part is that Netflix didn’t use to do this, but it seems that all of the competition in the streaming space is starting to get to them. 


For example, when the Netflix movie, Bird Box, came out in 2018, they were proudly able to claim that the film received 80 million views in the first 4 weeks. This was a highly reliable number given that a person had to watch at least 70% of the film for the view to be counted. 


You know how modern Netflix views are counted though? Well, a person only has to watch for a total of 2 minutes for the view to be counted. I mean, 2 minutes is a low amount of watch time even for a low-budget 10–12 minute YouTube video. 


So, to claim that that’s an accurate way to measure the viewership of a multi-hour movie or a several-season show that costs tens of millions to produce? Well, that seems quite fishy to say the least, and if you’re a Netflix investor, you might wanna take a closer look. 



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7 . APPLE WATCH CALORIES

The only FAANG company that we haven’t yet discussed is Apple, but that’s not to say that they don’t lie. Just a few years ago, there was that whole controversy about Apple slowing down older phones to quote on quote “preserve battery life”. 


When in reality, this was probably just a ploy for planned obsolescence. But, I don’t really want to focus on Batterygate as it’s already so well documented and discussed. A much more subtle lie that Apple is still carrying and very much profiting from is the calorie count displayed on Apple Watches. 


If you’ve ever felt that the calorie counts displayed on your Apple Watch seemed too good to be true, it’s probably because it was. Research has found that Apple watches tend to overestimate calories burned by as much as 50%. 


Now, of course, no watch-based calorie counter is gonna be super accurate but it does seem like Apple is inclined to present inflated numbers. Why you ask? Well, one of the top reasons that people buy Apple Watches nowadays is for fitness tracking. 


Being able to see that they’re burning a bunch of calories and working out more after buying an Apple Watch makes customers feel good about their purchase. At first glance, this might actually seem like a white lie that encourages people to work out more often. 


But it often just leads to people becoming obsessed with the data and being able to share on social media how long they ran or how many calories they burned. For obvious reasons, that’s not exactly the best mindset to approach fitness with, and a lot of these people would be better off without an Apple Watch. 



8 . MICROSOFT SURFACE

Moving onto our next instance of corporate lies, this is probably something that all of you can relate to. You know how when you buy a tablet with 32 gigs of storage, you only end up getting like 28.7 gigs. Or when you buy a laptop with 256 gigs of storage, you only end up getting like 220 gigs? 


Well, this usually has to do with how hard drive manufacturers calculate their storage and preinstalled software. Most of us have just accepted this quirk as a known shortfall when considering storage specifications, but this one time, Microsoft pushed it way too far. 


Back in 2012, their 32 GB Surface Tablet actually only came with 16 GB of storage. And their 64 GB model only came with 46 GB. Microsoft was transparent about this discrepancy but unless you read the fine print, you’d be in for an unpleasant surprise when you run out of storage for the first time. 



9. INTEL MELTDOWN & SPECTRE

Moving onto our last corporate lie, we have a big one that you’ve probably never even heard of but were likely affected by: the Intel Meltdown & Spectre controversy. Meltdown and Spectre were massive security flaws that were present on Intel processors. 


These vulnerabilities basically blurred the lines between the memory usage of different programs. Essentially, Chrome was able to read the memory usage of Edge and Edge was able to read the memory usage of Safari and so on. 


This is not that big of a deal when we’re talking about reputable services and products like Chrome and Safari, but this becomes a massive vulnerability due to malware. Malware could essentially latch onto your computer and read all of the memory that is being stored by Chrome and Safari and anything else you’re using. 


This not only exposes things like your name and email but also more sensitive items like your passwords, encryption keys, bank credentials, credit card numbers, and basically anything else that you might type into a browser. 


Despite the severity of the vulnerability, in classic corporate fashion, Intel would downplay the situation and not tell customers till the very last second. And for this deception, they’re currently fighting a class action lawsuit. 



Wrapping Up

Will these companies ever change their ways and be more honest? Probably not, so make sure you’re staying safe out there.

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