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Before visitors set foot in many tech company inside fees, they must sign a (digital) promise that they will not see or hear what they hear. Religious leaders in the United States made legal binding agreements with Facebook not to talk in detail about their worship online worship collaboration. And Amazon demanded that the testers of the apparent body de-scanning technology not disclose anything about the experience.

Nondisclosure agreements like these have become a mystery to many influential people and organizations who want to keep secrets, sometimes for understandable reasons and at other times for horrible things. The NDA and similar legal agreements have been used to print sexual abuse and harassment and discrimination at work.

The NDA is certainly not limited to the tech industry. But the power of big tech companies g companies and the popularity of their products make their efforts on enforced secrecy particularly dangerous, as the NDA reveals to the public how these companies shape the world.

The use of NDAs in trivial or routine circumstances, such as tech office fee visits, is ironic in an industry that appreciates openness and transparency. Facebook says it values ​​free expression, but it prevents you from talking about the grapes you eat in the company’s cafeteria.

Yes, people and companies always have good reasons to demand confidentiality or to try to prevent competitors from learning their best ideas. And because many people, including journalists, are eager to learn about potential tech products or projects, there may be a greater risk of content leaking out of those companies.

But it’s also easy to find flaws in the desire of many tech companies to throw around, both stupidly and unsettling around the NDA, like Confetti. IToma Ozoma, a former Pinterest public policy executive, is among those pushing for a ban on the NDA, which has limited people who feel discriminated against in the workplace from speaking out in public about their experiences. Some laws prohibit the NDA if they conceal sexual misconduct or dangerous products. (The people leading the charge against abusive NDA or other restricted workplace legal agreements are mostly women or black tech workers such as Ozoma.)

If tech workers hadn’t risked breaking the NDA on their companies, people would never have learned in public about the emotional and physical health risks and details of the Russians reviewing Facebook posts about fraud, violence and sex at blood test company Theranos. Propaganda online to spread voter chaos in the United States.

“The wide reach of these companies is what makes the use of their exploitation agreements the biggest issue,” Ozoma told me in an email. “Companies in California are exporting highly restricted, contracting silences to every corner of the globe. And they are doing all this while claiming to be threatening about the rights of speech and free expression. “

It hurts other customers when RBNB customers get a bedbug on rented houses, or nondisclosure provisions limit customers from publicly complaining about experiences with tooth adjustment when it signs the NDA. And is it fair for Amazon and other companies to require elected officials to sign a nondisclosure agreement about projects that use taxpayer dollars?

The need to sign the NDA before entering tech companies stunned me when I first arrived. It feels like an unnecessary and trivial exercise of power. (Second question: Are these agreements also enforceable?)

A lot of sensitive details are discussed in investment banks, law firms, news organizations and hospitals, and as far as I know they don’t have a non-disclosure agreement for everyone who walks in the door. Instead, employees are careful not to discuss secrets where outsiders can hear them.

Again, the NDA is not specific to technology. Trump used it in the White House. Some celebrities obviously need an NDA for friends or romantic partners. My colleagues reported last year that many companies require employees to sign a nondoclosure agreement in order to receive split packages.

Companies and individuals have legitimate reasons to seek to keep many of their secrets, but they may choose other legal means to do so, including confidentiality provisions, which are more limited in scope. While powerful and trendsetting tech companies use the NDA for everything and anything, it often protects it at the expense of the rest of us.


Help of the week

Are your cord-free headphones more frustrating than magical? Brian X Chen, Consumer Tech columnist for The New York Times, advised when to share and share your {SCREAMS share.

Wireless earphones are great. They let you move around freely, are easier to put away than wired earphones and have the right sound quality. Lately, though, I’ve been calling it quits on wireless earbuds for one type of use: video calls on a computer.

For more than a year away from work, my Apple Paul AirPods were unreliable for video calls on my desktop. Occasionally, AirPods disappear from the list of Bluetooth devices available on my Mac, forcing me to reset my earbuds. Other times, when I inserted a new video, I couldn’t select the wireless earphone as the microphone or speaker.

I took a lot of troubleshooting steps to not deliver any trouble, and found that there are similar headaches for many others. Then I read an article about this issue by my colleague La La Dragon on Virector, which is a publication of our sister who tests products. It turns out that Bluetooth headphones often have problems connecting to computers – it often happens that manufacturers emphasize that wireless earphones are “optimized for mobile devices” and do not guarantee that they will work well with the computer.

This makes sense to me: we tend to upgrade smartphones more regularly than computers, so mobile devices have new Bluetooth technology that probably works better with newer earbuds.

After reflecting on all the video calls that went wrong for me, I dipped the bullet and bought a relatively inexpensive, old-school wired headset from Logitech just for my virtual meetings. It costs 25 and works perfectly every time. Sometimes, you have to know when to call it quits on fancy tech.


  • Beijing’s invisible hand: The company behind China’s wildly popular vec app has suspended new user registration, which my colleague Paul L. Mozore said raised fears of new regulatory pressure. In recent months, Chinese officials have been working on technical tests that have affected sister, food delivery services and online tutoring start-ups like Uber.

  • Question on the technology frequently used in law enforcement: Wise’s motherboard publication reviewed court records suggesting that Shotspotter, a technology that detects shootings and warns of law enforcement, sometimes changes data on the location and timing of shootings at the request of the police department.

  • Attention and Scary that online video: An Iraqi teenager recorded a video online listing his country’s troubles and asking President Biden for help. The video got bigger, and my colleague Jane Araf reported that the teenager was flooded with thousands of negative social media comments and was afraid to leave home.

The mother and son set out to build an origami crane and learn about perseverance during an epidemic. They took final photos of all 465 cranes last month.