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The Worm in the Apple

Optimize Blog - May 5, 2011 - 0 comments

Apple is once again under fire over its products and, specifically, the management of collected data. This latest problem came to light when security researchers found a hidden file on some of Apple’s devices containing a record of everywhere they had been carried. Used with certain software, the file could generate a map of all of a person’s movements with the phone.
Clearly, this might be useful for nefarious purposes and some consumers are rightly concerned how this data might be used – it does sound rather Orwellian after all. However, it now turns out that this was a ‘bug in the system’ and Apple have released a software fix for the problem.
The cynics amongst you might be wondering how those awfully bright people at Apple (are they not all geniuses after all?) could make such an error…especially an error with such a clear value…but the creator of the iPhone and iPad denies any such conspiracy. Phew – sighs of relief all round then!
Cell phone companies are already able to capture location data from cell phone towers and Wi-Fi locations but the retrieval of this data currently can only be obtained via a court order. Later this month Apple and Google are due to testify at a US senate hearing on mobile privacy as the firms come under increasing pressure to reveal how they collect and store location data.
Smartphones running Google’s Android operating system also store data but it is an opt-in service, according to the firm. A lawsuit was filed against Apple in Florida last week, accusing the firm of violating privacy laws and this latest concern may yet spawn further legal moves thus prompting Apple’s release of the fix.
So, when considering Apple’s claim of this being a software glitch we got to thinking about credibility. Is Apple’s claim credible and what lessons can we learn about credibility as leaders in the workplace?
Credibility is defined as the quality, capability, or power to illicit belief. Your credibility is yours to build or destroy, and it is shaped primarily by what you do, not what you say. Your credibility can also only be built over time so, if you currently find yourself in a new position or company, people are going to take some time to check you out – no matter what you’ve done in the past, your credibility score is low. Importantly, your credibility is decided by others – you don’t get a vote on this one.
Credibility is important and employees are sometimes cynical of their supervisors because they have been let down and disappointed so many times that they are on their guard. Just because you’re the smartest, most perceptive, clearest thinker doesn’t mean anyone will listen to you if you don’t have any credibility with the group.
Credibility with people is built many ways. First, we build credibility by being honest and living with integrity. Being a person of integrity is mainly about values and behaviour and has very little to do with what we say.
Second, we build credibility in humility. Being humble means we have a firm grip on reality, and we know our weaknesses and strengths. Humble people understand the dignity of people, look for the best in others, and listen much more than they speak.
Third, credibility is built by being transparent. People all around you need to trust you so you need to build that trust by doing what you say you will do and being authentic, genuine and avoiding being disingenuous.
Honesty, integrity, humility, and transparency are far from enough to build credibility – we also need to be competent in our role. Competence is really knowledge which is put into practice and that adds value.
Finally, as we consider our own credibility, Apple’s explanation around the issues did not convince everyone. Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, described Apple’s explanation as “not plausible”. “The researchers’ report clearly shows that the phone was recording a location trace of its user,” he said. “I’ll assume that their claim of a programming error may be an attempt to diminish culpability, and thus the fine they have to pay, in the event that they get prosecuted, whether by the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] in the USA or by one or more data protection authorities in Europe.”
Trust action not words…

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