Tech behemoth Facebook is facing a tricky 2018 that could define its future, and it will act as a not-so-subtle reminder for businesses of all shapes and sizes that, while it makes good business sense to share data, the reputational fallout of inadequate data policies and systems may take down even the biggest and best.
This year’s revelations of an alleged data breach of more than 50 million Facebook users at the hands of political data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica came as a shock to many, but perhaps not to Facebook’s execs, as it turns out.
The Guardian reports that Facebook had been aware of improper access and use of data by the firm as early as 2015, but it has taken global media attention in March this year to see Zuckerberg and Co move to suspend the data firm.
In some corners, there has been surprise that any data can be accessed and used by third parties, but that probably comes from a position of naivety. Signing or merely acknowledging the lengthy terms and conditions of the digital channels and apps we so freely access and download has coincided with a visible increase in ‘retargeted’ adverts across multiple channels.
And that’s just what we see. The reality is that consumers of social media, websites and mobile apps are handing over access to their devices. Companies listen to our conversations, in some instances they even see what we’re doing – very George Orwell, but also very true.
The reason? Data is valuable. It provides quantifiable evidence of both rational and irrational behaviours. Why do we buy certain brands or services? When do we buy them? How does it make us feel? The list goes on.
Data provides insights behind intuition and the truth is, companies that responsibly harvest, store and use data will have an edge over their competitors.
And there shouldn’t be a blanket judgement passed down that this is unscrupulous behaviour. For many, an always-on life juggling home and work pressures, travel, budgeting, raising families and generally planning and living our lives rewards immediacy. A brand that can provide a solution at just the right time provides a win for both parties.
At Rowland, we are committed to being a data-centric agency. That’s not to say we are a data agency but that we’re always looking at the role data plays in our industry, in our advice and services, and in how we measure our success.
Needless to say, the desire to access data or secure our own data has never been more important for us. Projects like data.gov.au provide us with open source material and we are continually looking at partnerships that share de-identified data.
I suspect most of you reading this will be part of an organisation that has its own data play to provide better services, more innovative products and so on.
But, in 2018, with the world’s glare on Facebook, sharing information will be important, but caring where it ends up and what it’s used for will be even more so. Data capture and sharing will often stand up in a court of law, but how will it stack up in the court of public opinion?