Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Corporate Responsibility for Computers

Last week I wrote a blog on a computer glitch in McAfee's anti-virus software that triggered widespread system shutdown around the globe. In that blog I compared the McAfee incident to the problems Toyota has faced recently. Well apparently Computers As Humans was not the only member of the tech community to make this comparison. And apparently there are good reasons for this.

The bug itself occurred last Wednesday morning. Late Thursday night, McAfee issued a statement of apology explaining that less than .005 percent of it's users were effected. And McAfee has of course since remedied the glitch, which was causing the application to falsely indentify harmless software as viral threats and shut down whole systems. However aside from that, and stating that they were "extremely sorry," McAfee's response has largely been one of sidestepping and trivializing the problem. Sound familiar?

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, for one isn't digging it. As Enderle sees it, McAfee have responded in a very similar matter to Toyota, by refusing to take immediate responsibility for the problem. As Enderle himself put it, "This seems very negligent. When you have an act of negligence, you have to get out in front of it. You have to show everybody that you are going to take care of it as quickly as you can." Indeed.

Now as I said in last weeks blog, a computer shutting itself down hardly seems as serious as a sudden, uncontrollable burst of acceleration. However when you consider that hospitals and police cruisers were affected by the glitch, you begin to grasp the potential seriousness of the problem. As Enderle went on to say,"Windows XP is used in ticketing systems and in security systems, so when the failures hit it can be incredibly widespread."

McAfee have behaved arguably better than Toyota. Of course that may be simply because rectifying their problem was much easier. Toyota still seems to be unsure, or unwilling to admit the nature of their product's malfunctioning.

So it would seem that, sadly, corporate irresponsibility is just as healthy in the tech world as it is in the automotive world.

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