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Uber scandal highlights Silicon Valley's bad behavior

Matt Weinberger | Nov. 20, 2014
What price convenience?

But Uber is far from the only problematic success in the San Francisco startup scene. Uber's pratfalls tend to be majorly public, because, yeah, Nixon's ghost really does seem to haunt every aspect of its PR efforts. 

Snapchat wants to become a money-swapping platform, but can't keep user data secure. The prevailing wisdom for women in technology is to "Lean In," ignoring the vast majority of underprivileged workers for whom that's just not a possibility. Google, Uber, and a bunch of smaller startups have all been accused at one time or another of exploiting contract workers, taking advantage of a workforce that they can overwork and still deny benefits. And Facebook is, you know, Facebook, selling your information to anybody and everybody

Are there easy answers? Of course not. All the companies named here, Uber included, have all become part of the fabric of life in the Bay Area. Even for the rare person who lives here that doesn't ever, ever take advantage of the services provided by a technology company, it's hard to overstate the impact that they have on the community.

Just ask anybody who's ever tried to have a quiet lunch anywhere in downtown San Francisco while Oracle, VMware, or Salesforce are throwing their conferences. Just ask anybody who's trying to get a cab at San Francisco International airport while this current anti-Uber/Lyft/Sidecar taxi strike is underway

If you accept that Silicon Valley is the hotbed for new ideas, technologies and companies that will soon sweep the world, you also have to accept that these problems will scale accordingly. But if you want to live in a world where a dominant player even considers abusing the data it has into the lives of the people who dare ask  tough questions, and which demonstrates a disregard for its workforce and its community, then please, keep validating Uber.

Maybe routine abuses of power and privacy and privilege are the price you have to pay for convenience and innovation. But I don't think so. I think the time has really come to rethink what you're really getting when you're paying for the services you're using. 

In other words, if Silicon Valley is the future, we're doing it wrong. 


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