The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is … Apathy? A Look Into “Fuzzy” Corporate Ethics

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I was recently engaged in a forum on Rovio.com, for one of their mobile games, Angry Birds: Transformers. While Rovio’s applications are called ‘games’, they don’t actually fit into this category. They are actually, ‘time wasters’. There are a significant number of differences between the two (that I won’t get into here), that justify not classifying them as ‘games’. But, what does that mean? That means that individuals who want to just waste time, with little thought or effort, utilize these applications as a temporary break from reality. And, unlike a game, that temporary break is supposed to come with a certain amount of simplicity. However, if you’ve ever had the displeasure of playing the Transformers version of Rovio’s games, or participating in their online forums, you would quickly discover that it’s anything but simple and anything but just a fun, time waster. The corporate greed rampant in Rovio’s company has truly degraded the quality of their work and upset a large number of individuals who came to trust the company for one thing: time wasters.

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It was clear to everyone in the forum that Rovio was, in their perspective, cheating, stealing, and trying to manipulate players into spending money for a pathetic, half-assed attempt at a time waster. To me, it’s clear that Rovio tried launching an Angry Birds Movie shows that they are completely out of touch with the fact kids don’t play their games … bored adults at work, do!

Is Rovio in the wrong? They clearly said that they “…want to become as large as Facebook or Google.” (Which, they are well on their way). And, certainly, such an endeavor doesn’t happen by making cost affordable, fun programs that people like. That type of motivation fosters aggressive advertising, mass manipulation of markets, and some pretty underhanded tactics. I’ve previously posted white papers about the danger of security and mobile applications – and nothing has changed. Rovio is not what is readily considered a “trust” worthy company. Their access to mobile phone data is an excellent source of income, allowing them to sell personal information, record individual behaviors, and then customize their marketing to further manipulate and monopolize those behaviors. But, is that really unethical, or is it just ‘fuzzy ethics’?

Let’s consider whether or not a person has a right to pay for or utilize a service with a reasonable expectation of behavior from the company providing that service, shall we?

  1. When you go to buy a television at Best Buy (or anything else for that matter), would you be okay with the sales associate losing your credit card so that someone else could pick it up and use it? Probably not. In fact, you would most likely fight until charges were filed or that associate was at least terminated and some form of compensatory arrangement was made. So, why is it okay for big corporations to conveniently ‘lose’ your data, and then put it back on you? “Change your password every 30 days!” “Get the ID Chip card!” “Don’t put your information online!” Etc., etc., etc. So … when did YOU become responsible for THEIR idiocy? Why are YOU the one who now has to do extra work? When you purchased that television from Big Buy, you entered into a form of a contract. That contract said that you would provide a form of tender acceptable to the company and in turn, they would provide you a working television in the form advertised. So … at what point was their a disclaimer anywhere that also read that they could let ‘loose’ on their security protocols, drop your credit card in a pile of others, and just lose your data? Didn’t you have a right to a certain expectation of privacy? When does the company get fired like the sales associate? And, what level of compensation is enough? Probably .. in truth (or as it ‘should’ be) – a lifetime’s worth of readiness to reimburse you for ANY and ALL potential losses. How is it okay that government agencies take data and software companies put vulnerabilities in their programs that allow this to happen, all for their own, financial gain? Do you have a right to expect a level of professionalism from a so-called ‘professional’ company?
  2. When you purchase a product, do you not have a certain right to expectation of functionality? “Oh, sorry, that smart phone doesn’t make phone calls or get reception, but hey, you can take ‘action’ shots with it!” If I wanted a $500 camera … I would have BOUGHT a $500 camera. There was a time when labels like “lemon” laws were put into place to protect end consumers from bad retail establishments. For example, automotive sales companies were hit hard with “lemon laws” when selling new and used vehicles because of the actual “laws” that they helped put into place that cornered the market in their favor (yay … America … so free ….). The idea is that companies, especially those that get the favor of a monopoly, go against the American way of life. It’s not anti-American to restrict private enterprise when that private enterprise literally uses communistic tactics to make you buy their products. So, you buy a phone, or download an application, or get a couch delivered to your home and you have a certain right to quality, right? Well … not really. Welcome to the new era of downloadable/up-gradable apps and as-is sales (even though there are some laws out there to protect you). Those microscopic letters on the bottom or backside of your receipt, printed on the wall in the break room where you’ll never see them, or represented online virtually if you have 1000 hours to search for it, give corporations a big “out“.
  3. Do you have a right to privacy for what you buy? Well … do you? Every time you make a purchase on line or at a store, that information is tracked. Some companies are clever and offer “frequent shopper” style cards that seem completely innocent – but are not. And, if your information is sold, with or without your knowledge, to whom do you complain? The BBB? Nope … they give a credit worthiness rating that can be influenced by a 1000 fake reports from that very same company. The government? Well, that is one option – although they’re overwhelmed and even with all the reporting going on, the companies DON’T CARE! A hundred million there, 40 million here … who cares? If they made $1 billion … the offset was worth it (and most likely, you, as the victimized consumer, won’t even see a dime). Is it ethical? Well, to the companies offering products, their answer is, ‘yes’. They gave you a discount, or offered extra service, or blah, blah, blah. YOU are responsible because YOU gave them that information. But, wait … is that really true? Several countries are suing large corporations for privacy violations, protecting their citizens (well … not America … conveniently), because it’s NOT okay. Still … doesn’t matter. A hundred million identities sold for $10 a pop is a billion dollars. So, a $100 million dollar lawsuit that makes states and some individuals wealthy, means nothing to big corporations. Where’s the “real” punishment? Nowhere. Why? In America, selling you out isn’t breaking the law … for corporations. However, if an individual does it – you’re in BIG TROUBLE.

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This is where ‘fuzzy’ ethics come in. It’s okay for person A to break the law, but not person B. What’s the difference? None, except that person A has an ‘out’, due to some other unethical tactic (like lobbying or influencing the government), and there’s no one to enforce the laws to really protect person B. This type of behavior goes by many names: “bullying,” “blackmail,” “extortion,” and some other inappropriate slander. For example, this particular type of behavior has been in the news of late with law enforcement. People accuse police officers of abusing their positions and murdering citizenry although the law does not define it as murder, but rather, a ‘necessary course of action in the line of duty.’ So, what’s ethical and what’s not? If it’s okay for police officers to do their jobs (and it is … because that’s why the public entrusts them with certain freedoms above and beyond those of ordinary citizens), but not to violate an ethics standard, then how come corporations can violate an ethics standard and there is an unequal balance in how corporations are punished?

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There are a million definitions online about what constitutes fuzzy ethics. However, the best definition is this: “It’s okay … some of the time.” That’s it. It’s okay when corporations do it, but not when individuals do it because of the “alternate” golden rule (you know, “He who has the gold makes the rules.”?). This is the type of tyranny that the Declaration of Independence spoke against and the type of governmental abuse that billions have died fighting against for countless generations. Yet, today, the corporations are, in their own right and with their ability to influence law, a form of government. While you’ll find countless arguments online about how foolish the argument about income inequality is … the mere fact that it is the basis for ‘fuzzy ethics’, is a clearly defining line that income inequality is a REAL problem.

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So, this brings us full back ’round to the start: If Rovio entertainment promotes a ‘time waster’ product, and people utilize it under that pretense, and then Rovio begins to change and alter it to the point it is no longer what the consumer expected?  And, in this case, the consumer paid for the game directly (or with their personal information). Regardless of the disclaimers, Rovio is not an omnipotent being. Google’s not a deity. And Apple is … well … I’m not really sure what they are. But, when discussing giants like Berkshire Hathaway, Disney, NBCUniversal, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and others – it’s easy to lose sight as a ‘little’ person that these companies are not the great and all-powerful wizard. They are, in fact, the weak little men and women hiding behind their curtain, pulling on the strings.

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And, like the wizard … they are using fear to control. Their hand in government is terrifying. Their ability to destroy lives is overwhelming. Who wants to challenge a multi-billion dollar corporation so big that it’s justified that they would put some day care centers out of business, harming children, because they’re probably losing a few hundred dollars per year (even though they scoff at multi-million dollar law-suits for the laws they break)? (Yeah, I’m talking about Disney.)

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So, what does all of this mean to you?

Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? How long can this type of lifestyle continue? Indefinitely? Hmm…. that’s not so likely considering there’s cardboard in your food (because you hate your body anyway). Or the friend of the friend you know who has a contact link in their phone for you and you are already being sold and traded like a commodity (because you’re okay with being a slave and working for free)? Or maybe you just didn’t actually want to save money and bought used junk, or stuff that was going to break soon anyway (because you often burn that cash in the fireplace anyway, right?).

These are very disconcerting times. It’s probably not too different (except for the technology), than a lot of other times in human history. But, perhaps that is why history is filled with violence and bloodshed by people trying to get back in control of their lives. World War II is a major testimony to the dangers of on apathetic society. Throughout history, apathy has been a major cause of pain and suffering. And, history does repeat itself.

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Is there a way to break the cycle, though? Is there some sort of … action, or step people can take to reclaim their world? Or … will all of this just be more for the history books about the primrose path of modern culture? Well, the pilgrims went to a new world (and just brought their problems with them). Knights marched in the Crusades to defend their lands (and died … a lot). But, again, all of these actions resulted in some pretty negative outcomes. Today, people are taking to the streets more and more often in shows of violence.

Maybe there’s a way to head all of this off at the pass, though? Maybe not everyone is a four-legged, poop eating sheep? I know the answer … but it’s not my answer to give.

It’s yours.

It’s your world. And, this … THIS IS YOUR TIME! (Goonie reference intentional!)

So, think long and hard … and then decide what you’re going to do with it.

(Hint … if money is the source of corruption, and money is only exchanged because the mass of peoples are exchanging it, then …. )

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(No – this isn’t the answer … just in case you were wondering … but it is funny!)

Enjoy!


Sorry, I rambled on … a lot. A lot has happened in 2017 and it’s somewhat overwhelming. I’ll get it together soon. 🙂

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.” – Charles de Montesquieu

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