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Can users influence the giants of the IT industry?
Monday, February 8, 2021
The task of all software developers is to create popular products that not only are convenient to use but also do not put a person’s information security at risk. Especially if a company makes claims of global leadership and is striving to be perfect at everything. In today's issue, we'll talk about situations when software developers, for their own reasons, make improvements to their applications, but users and the expert community do not understand why. How should one regard such misdirected good intentions? Does the rule "the customer is always right" apply here? Let's take a look at the largest companies whose developments are used all over the world and that, it would seem, must seem clumsy even when users are pressuring them.
Recently, in early January, WhatsApp warned its users that it would soon start sharing their data with Facebook (find out more in our issue "Messages from messengers"). That resulted in a violent backlash around the world and an outflow of users to other messengers. In view of this change of events, the developers suddenly decided to postpone this decision — to at least let "hot heads" cool down a little and "explain" the point of the introduced changes, which (as is claimed) will not affect user privacy and security. They postponed their decision at least till May, and then they will see.
It appears that Apple has also reconsidered its actions—it is disabling the conflicting feature that allows a number of its "popular" programs to bypass traffic scans by third-party firewalls, anti-viruses, VPN services and other security applications. As in the case with WhatsApp, the mixed reaction to this innovation in macOS Big Sur forced the software development company to reconsider their decisions and make excuses. An Apple representative claimed that those restrictions were introduced temporarily and were associated with a number of errors in the operating system. However, now that they’ve been corrected, the situation can go back to the status quo: they are going to return full access to traffic. The corresponding changes will appear roughly in macOS Big Sur version 11.2.
These two events showed that even large corporations sometimes change their unpopular and conflicting decisions if met with a wave of public anger. In general, users are against sacrificing their own safety: accepting an ultimatum to have their personal data transferred, as in the case with WhatsApp, or putting up with the fact that an operating system, known for its security, is suddenly appearing to be more vulnerable—as in the case with macOS Big Sur. And in connection with the latter situation, we, as anti-virus developers, have additional concerns: our scheduled support for Big Sur forced our specialists to start creating practically from scratch the modules that are responsible for intercepting network traffic and checking launched files in the Dr.Web software product that protects macOS.
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The software market is diverse, and all users can make their own choices. On the other hand, many users have deliberately chosen a particular product—whether an operating system or a messenger—and remain committed to it, appreciate it for its benefits, rely upon it and count on the developer's support. And if suddenly the product "fails", migrating to alternative software is not the only way to solve the problem. Although an outflow of users (as in the case with WhatsApp) yields its results, forcing developers to respond to controversial situations. But one cannot say that such migration is always comfortable for users. Only time and the further decisions of the company will show whether users return to WhatsApp.
Do not be quick to lose faith in a product if some its features change for the worse. Defend your interests, contact software companies, ask "uncomfortable" questions and raise controversial topics—on social networks, for example. After all, the major players of the IT industry are not interested in losing their users.