On Thursday, May 3rd, our marketing team sent out a survey intended to help us better understand Mycroft’s users. Shortly after it went out, several vigilant members of our community correctly pointed out that the tools used for the survey included third party tracking software from companies with less than stellar reputations for privacy. The survey also included questions about ethnicity, income and national origin that some users understandably found offensive. The questions were worded in a way that is acceptable in some parts of the United States, but are clearly unacceptable in a global context.
Our team was thinking locally when we should have been thinking globally.
Those of you who’ve seen me speak in person or on video may have heard me say:
“We are not going to be perfect. Creating systems that are truly private in a world full of surveillance is difficult, but I will tell you this – systems or software that compromise your privacy will last only so long as I am unaware of them.”
I had a sit down with the team involved and helped them to better understand what we did wrong and why it is out of line with our ethos. This is something I should have done proactively and I apologize for not doing so. I let them know that going forward they need to keep one concept at the forefront of their minds when interacting with users and user data:
“It is always the user’s choice whether or not to share their data with a third party.”
The responsibility for our failure rests entirely with me.
I’ve instructed the team to irrevocably destroy all of the data collected during this effort and initiate a comprehensive review of our online presence to identify tools or systems that may compromise user privacy. Though we do need to understand our users, we need to do so using tools that let them choose whether or not to share their information.
I apologize. We’ll work to do better.
Mycroft’s First Officer, a serial entrepreneur and Air Force Officer, Joshua brings more than 15 years of leadership experience to the Mycroft team. He is a strong supporter of the open ethos, net neutrality and consumer privacy. Joshua lives in Holualoa, Hawaii with his wife and co-founder Kris Adair.