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6 dirty secrets of the IT industry

Dan Tynan | Oct. 29, 2013
IT pros blow the whistle on the less-than-white lies and dark sides of the tech business

Then you may end up paying much more later to clean up the mess, adds Joe Silverman, CEO of New York Computer Help — which often happens when companies cut corners by shortchanging or overburdening internal IT support.

"We have gone to many NYC offices and apartments to see the leftover tracks of a shoddy computer repair or IT job from another company, family member, or friend who acted as the go-to IT guy," he says. "The guy in accounting who sometimes takes care of computer issues is most likely too busy and too inexperienced to fix a failed hard drive, motherboard, or power supply. If the network or server crashes, do you want to really depend on your accounting guy to get the job done, or a senior network engineer with 20 years of experience?"

Dirty IT secret No. 6: We know a lot more about you than you think
Going all in on data collection

Think the NSA has you under surveillance? They're punks compared to consumer marketing companies and data brokers.

One of the biggest offenders are casinos, says J.T. Mathis, a former casino database manager and author of a self-published expose about his experience titled, "I Deal to Plunder: A Ride Through the Boom Town." When you enter a casino, you're gambling with more than just money — you're risking your most personal data. Mathis estimates that his former employer's marketing database contained the names of more than 100,000 active and inactive gamblers.

"From the moment you enter the casino, everything you do is tracked," says Mathis. "If you sit down at a slot machine, they know exactly where you're at, how many times you've pulled the handle, and how much money you're putting in. They know you like to eat at 4:30 and order the lobster platter. They know your favorite cigarettes and wine and whether you watched porn in your room. And when you arrive during the summer they know the lady you're with is not your wife, so employees make sure to call her Cindy and not Barbara."

Former casino executive and LSU professor Michael Simon confirms Mathis' story. But, he adds, it's not that much different than the kind of data collection performed by companies like CVS, PetSmart, or Amazon.

"I teach an MBA class on database analysis and mining, and all the companies we study collect customer information and target offers specific to customer habits," he says. Simon, author of "The Game of My Life: A Personal Perspective of a Retired Gaming Executive," adds, "It's routine business practice today, and it's no secret. For example, I bring my dog to PetSmart for specific services and products, and the offers they send me are specific to my spending habits, and I like that.PetSmart on the other hand gives me what I want instead of wasting time sending me stuff I won't use like discounts on cat food or tropical fish."

One thing that is different: When Mathis was laid off in May 2012, he still had copies of the database in hand. When he tried to return it, he was out of luck — the casino refused to return his calls. Talk about gambling with your data.


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