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Sep 19, 2018

'Break things' mindset shouldn't apply to data security: Alphabet chairman

Alphabet chairman: 'We need to be aware of the consequences of technology'

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The chairman of Google’s parent company says major technology companies may need to adjust their mindsets if they really want to make data security a top priority.

“In some sense there was a mindset inside much of the tech companies: Run fast, break things and fix them,” John Hennessy told BNN Bloomberg in an interview Wednesday. “That doesn’t work when you’re talking about breaking something like somebody’s privacy or their data security.”

“So we need to rethink that and [its] implications, which will probably mean slowing some things down a little bit to make sure we really understand what the user impact is.”

Hennessy added that Alphabet needs to better communicate what it stands for as data security increasingly comes under the spotlight, but stopped short of calling the company’s absence at a recent U.S. Senate hearing on foreign election meddling – attended by Twitter Inc.’s (TWTR.N) CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Inc.’s (FB.O) COO Sheryl Sandberg – a missed opportunity.

“I think, certainly we need to do a better job of communicating what the core values of the company are and our commitment to the customers and the users of Google,” Hennessy said.

He added that differentiating legitimate news sources from the wealth of self-published content on the Internet remains crucial to sheltering the masses from fake news.

“The Internet is magical. It allows anybody to publish,” he said. “But with that comes a loss of authority that we have with traditional news sources, which vet their information and try to adhere to the facts and separate out opinion from news.”

“We have to think about how the services we offer are going to align with that.”

Hennessy, a former Stanford University president, is promoting his new book “Leading Matters: Lessons from My Journey,” which was released on Sept. 4.

He also offered his opinions on some of the leading names in technology.

“Elon [Musk] is one of the most creative, most innovative people I’ve ever met. He completely thinks outside the box,” he said of Tesla’s (TSLA.O) CEO. “He needs to be paired with people who can actually run the business on a day-to-day basis, which isn’t what Elon is best at.”

Hennessy said he’s impressed with the ongoing maturation of Facebook (FB.O) founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

“Remember that when he started Facebook he was in his early 20s and hadn’t finished his degree at Harvard,” Hennessy said. “He’s learned a tremendous amount and I think that he continues to mature as a leader over time.”

He also believes that Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN.O), which became the second company to surpass a US$1 trillion market valuation earlier this month, should not be afraid to forge ahead on its present course.

“They have done such dramatic things on everything from logistics, to finding products, to what they’ve done on web services,” he said.

“I would be very hesitant to disrupt such a successful and innovative company, because they’ve grown, because their innovation has been appreciated. That seems a dangerous thing to do.”