The road to market for Essential has proven to be a rough and rocky one for the startup company and founder Andy Rubin. The company’s first smartphone device hit the market to mixed reactions despite excitement from some corners over the return of one of Android’s early founders. However, that was followed by release delays and some questionable marketing missteps. The company took another hit earlier this week when it was revealed customer data had been shared inappropriately forcing Rubin to issue a public apology for the “humiliating” turn of events.
The specific incident that Rubin apologized for involved personal information for around 70 customers. According to reports, when these customers submitted personal information to Essential via their Zendesk support portal the data was forwarded to other customers. The data included not only basic demographic type data like names and addresses, but also identification information like driver’s license numbers. Rubin says Essential has corrected the problem which he described as a “misconfigured account” and will be offering LifeLock services to the customers that were impacted.
Besides the tarnished image for Essential over the inability of a tech company to correctly setup their support portal, the incident also raised some other questions about how Essential operates. Several early adopters of the Essential phone shared via online sources like Reddit that they had received emails from the company asking for items like copies of driver’s licenses or other identification documents for the purpose of verifying their orders. Initially it was thought this may be the actions of phishers, but Essential confirmed the emails were legitimate. This has raised questions about why a company was asking for such personal information in this day and age.
In his apology, Rubin says “I’m personally responsible for this error and will try my best to not repeat it” due to his role as the founder and CEO of the company. He also promises to invest in customer care and infrastructure to try to ensure something similar does not happen in the future.