Andy Rubin describes the taste of crow after Essential spills customer data


Launching a product and company from scratch is hard, as fresh-faced entrepreneurs and Kickstarter successes often learn to their chagrin. And it turns out even heavy hitters like Andy Rubin and his mobile startup Essential have unpleasant lessons to learn — in this case, about how even a small detail like a mailing list configuration can put your entire company at risk.

The error appeared earlier this week as some customers were asked to send a photo ID to Essential to complete their orders. When they did, that information was inexplicably forwarded to the whole list of customers, about 70 of them, who had been asked to do so in the first place.

So there was effectively a nice reply-all chain where instead of saying “unsubscribe” people were attaching photos of their passports. Not good!

The problem was resolved, but for a young company purporting to fix a lot of the problems in today’s mobile and tech landscape, such an amateur error is hardly an auspicious beginning. What are we to think about their attention to detail in other important areas?

Rubin decided to address this potential crisis of confidence with a post on the Essential blog.

After a bit of preamble in which he established how hard it is to be Andy Rubin, a founder who must make “thousands of micro-decisions” to keep the company “laser-focused” he got around to the apology part:

Yesterday, we made an error in our customer care function that resulted in personal information from approximately 70 customers being shared with a small group of other customers. We have disabled the misconfigured account and have taken steps internally to add safeguards against this happening again in the future. We sincerely apologize for our error and will be offering the impacted customers one year of LifeLock.

He then returns to what it’s like to be a founder — although this time it’s to say that “occasionally you have to eat crow. It’s humiliating, it doesn’t taste good, and often, it’s a humbling experience.”

But not always!

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