Apple Supply Chain Suicides and Amazon Review Scams: Tech's Five Dirtiest Secrets

By @xanthonysfx on
  • Foxconn Fire
    Several reports have come out of China about factory workers who build component parts for Apple (and other manufacturers) killing themselves because of harsh working conditions. Then there was the aluminum dust build-up explosion at a factory in May 2011 that killed several workers (and another similar explosion in December). Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to a January 2012 report in the New York Times about factory conditions with an internal email about how much Apple really does care about workers all along its supply chain. "What we will not do—and never have done—is stand still or turn a blind eye to problems in our supply chain," Cook told Apple employees in the message. (Cook quote via 9to5Mac) Reuters
  • Twitter Bows to Big Brother
    Twitter will allow censorship of some messages in certain countries in order to prevent messages from being blocked entirely by those countries' governments. They argue internal censorship is better than wholesale blockages of information from a third party. Reuters
  • Demonstrators protest against Polish government plans to sign Acta
    The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is not a proposed U.S. law like SOPA or PIPA. Instead, it's an international agreement proposed to stop all kinds of forgery, including online piracy. So far, the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea have all signed the treaty with others promising to do so in the near future. The treaty relates to faked medicines and other counterfeit goods, but also addresses online piracy not unlike SOPA. One of its provisions could strip Internet service providers of the protections they now enjoy (in the U.S.). This could lead to a chilling effect and force Web sites to censor themselves out of fear of being sued for hosting pirated content (Web sites are protected from such lawsuits in the U.S. as of now). Reuters
  • Amazon
    A company called VIP that sells Amazon Kindle Fire cases was the subject of a New York Times story Jan. 26 about retailers who pay people to give them top reviews on Amazon in order to get a jump on the competition. VIP, of course, swears it's okay to refund people's purchases if they give a favorable review on Amazon's Web site. The FTC, however, is investigating because whenever a company and a buyer make a promotional agreement (like the one mentioned here), there must be full disclosure. The NYT asked Amazon about the policy, and now the VIP cases are no longer listed on Amazon at all. REUTERS
  • Convicted Criminals Use Facebook to Taunt Victims' Families
    Facebook has been troubled by scammers who trick people into clicking advertising and giving out their personal info simply by clicking the like button on some pages. Facebook and the state of Washington filed a lawsuit against a Delaware based company, Jan. 26, over what they say are unfair business practices. The company, called Adscend Media, had reportedly been making nearly $1.2 million per month in the scam by tricking people into signing up for pricey mobile subscription services after clicking on a 'bait' page. Reuters
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Just because people love shiny electronic gizmos doesn't mean they should be kept in the dark about some technology firms' practices, and the recent spate of suicides among Chinese factory workers in Apple's supply chain are only one example. While many factories, even in the U.S., expose their workers to dangerous conditions and poor salaries, the tech world is now inundated with stories about Amazon scammers, Facebook clickjackers, SOPA, PIPA and Google+ privacy concerns.

And it gets worse. The FBI is now considering setting up a surveillance system, specifically to watch social networks for signs of, well, terrorism and criminal activity. Add to that Twitter's new found love of voluntarily censoring itself in some countries, and it equals a mess bad publicity those companies would rather not discuss (Facebook even held a press conference recently where they wanted reporters to sign non-disclosure agreements).

Does all this mean people are bad if they support these companies or buy their products? No, but shining a light on what's really going on at some of the biggest tech firms is a good thing because people will want to find out more, and they might even start asking the right questions. Those questions in turn could lead to real changes in some of the most popular businesses in the world. Star the slideshow to see tech's five dirtiest secrets. Tell us in the comments if surprised to hear them or if you suspected as much all along.  

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