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An Obsession With Secrets

  • July 31, 2021

The requirement to sign NDAs before entering tech companies stunned me when I first encountered it. It feels like an unnecessary and trivial exercise of power. (Another question: Are these agreements even enforceable?)

Lots of sensitive details are discussed inside investment banks, law firms, news organizations and hospitals, and as far as I know they don’t have nondisclosure agreements for everyone who walks through the doors. Instead, employees tend to be careful not to discuss secrets where outsiders might hear them.

Again, NDAs aren’t unique to technology. The Trump White House used them. Some celebrities apparently require NDAs for friends or romantic partners. My colleagues reported last year that many companies require employees to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to receive severance packages.

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

Tip of the Week

Are your cord-free headphones way more frustrating than magical? Brian X. Chen, the consumer tech columnist for The New York Times, is here to share your {SCREAMS} and advise us when to give up:

Wireless earphones are great. They let you move around freely, are easier to put away than wired earphones and have decent sound quality. Recently, however, I called it quits on wireless earbuds for one type of use: video calls on a computer.

For more than a year of remote work, my Apple AirPods were unreliable for video calls on my desktop. Occasionally, the AirPods would vanish from the list of available Bluetooth devices on my Mac, forcing me to reset my earbuds. Other times, I wasn’t able to choose the wireless earphones as a microphone or speaker when I entered a new video call.

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