Blog post

We’re standing up for engineers

March 3, 2022natasha

Imagine you’re searching an online marketplace for circuit board components. Little do you know your every move is being packaged and sold— every click, every datasheet viewed, every file downloaded. Many such marketplaces sell your data, jeopardizing your intellectual property, compromising security, and inundating you with spam.

At SnapEDA, we have taken a hard line against this practice: we won’t sell an engineer’s activity on our platform. This protects the engineers and the companies they work for, which are often large original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), technology companies at the cutting edge of consumer hardware, or military and defense organizations. Even a single component selection, if leaked, could give competitors key insights into a company’s designs, representing a serious risk to their IP.

Less obvious is that component suppliers also benefit from SnapEDA’s data privacy policy. Buying engineers’ data plays into an old and archaic way of selling industrial products that relies on human-to-human sales. Today’s engineers want self-serve product selection tools with the ability to do their own research. Buying engineers’ data and spamming them is not effective.

Overview

SnapEDA introduced the first search engine focused on electronics design content such as PCB footprints which is now used by over 1 million engineers each year. Other platforms have since followed with similar services, but the data they capture–then package and sell–is a cause for concern for those to whom privacy is a premium. 

Such sites expose far more than the anonymous and aggregated data that SnapEDA provides to its component supplier partners. These sites expose granular activities made by an engineer, along with information like your full name, phone number, email, company, title, and even your computer’s IP address.

Privacy Concerns

Example of your activity packaged and sold to suppliers on other platforms. SnapEDA protects your personal information.

When Jeff Andle, a former VP of Engineering, and now an independent design consultant, saw the level of detail captured by some sites, he was “appalled.” Besides being intrusive, this practice of data capture and marketing could threaten a project being designed under an NDA or security designation. “They could reverse-engineer my entire schematic,” Andle says. 

Although less threatening to a project’s confidentiality, data sales could also reveal to vendors what parts a company might order for production. That knowledge gives the vendor price leverage over its customers. 

Finally, the information could be used to flood engineers with sales and marketing materials–and even trigger cold calls, a practice Andle calls “annoying and intrusive.” 

Andle suspects that many engineers aren’t aware of data capture and sales–at least at this level of granular detail. “Some people aren’t even aware they should be concerned about this,” Andle says. “There is a whole culture that has no common sense about data privacy.”

When engineers do become aware of efforts like our policy at SnapEDA to not sell identifiable activity data, they strongly support it. In our 2021 Annual Survey, 94.7 percent of respondents said they appreciated SnapEDA’s approach to privacy.

If SnapEDA doesn’t sell leads, how does it make money? 

Privacy isn’t just an altruistic stance.

With so much support for our privacy policy, we’ve been able to attract over a million designers and electrical engineers to our platform each year, many of which are the large OEMs that component suppliers want to reach with their marketing.

The engineers who care most about privacy turn out to be the most lucrative customers for suppliers; they’re often the ones working on the most high-budget designs. While a hobbyist may not take the time to scrutinize Terms and Conditions, large OEMs often do – but all should.

Selling information about our engineering community would be easy; the demand is certainly there. But this short-sighted, exploitative approach often harms each party in the long run.

We think it’s more interesting to re-think the problem, rather than cater to what suppliers ‘think’ they want when they ask to buy customer data.

This is why we instead monetize our platform with a focus on driving demand digitally. We connect the design intent to the technical solution to drive design wins, and ultimately sales through our distributor partners.

In the same way that you might search for an ‘italian restaurant’ on Google and see relevant solutions, engineers can search for components like ‘60 pin header’ on SnapEDA and see relevant solutions. Not only does this allow component suppliers to scale their sales by targeting design intent with relevant solutions, but it helps engineers to find the right products at the right time. When they’re ready to buy, we connect them to distributors, such as Digi-Key, Mouser, and dozens of more to complete the purchase.

Conclusion

At SnapEDA, our mission is to help engineers design electronics faster by removing barriers, and we believe that the best way to do that is by protecting engineers’ personal data. 

This gives engineers the freedom to build the products that improve our world without worrying about their intellectual property, security, or privacy.

When component suppliers focus too much on buying an engineer’s activity data, they’re signaling they’re not with the times. Today’s engineers want self-serve content, and they don’t want people slowing them down. “Cold leads” are not only ineffective, but also exploitative as they are often disclosed without the engineer knowing, distracting to the organization that buys them, and potentially harmful to the supplier’s reputation. 

SnapEDA offers a better way for both engineers and component suppliers. 

How to Protect Your Privacy in the Digital Design World

  • Use platforms that don’t sell your data. Read “Terms of Service” if you have doubts. 
  • Provide consent only for services that are clear and transparent
  • Ask for your data to be deleted if you have concerns
  • Need a part that SnapEDA doesn’t yet have? Use our secure InstaPart service, trusted by the world’s largest OEMs.

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