Friday, March 23, 2018

Keep Calm And Get A Relationship

The whole Facebook-Cambridge Analytica debacle can be read as a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from people who like to see the internet as a wild west awaiting their control. But there is an important lesson for anyone using data.

First - why the fuss? There are already plenty of laws and forthcoming rules to prevent the misuse of data.

The General Data Protection Regulation explicitly states that someone's data cannot be used or stored without their express permission, for example.

So, even if you were to grant a company permission to use your data, you can't grant permission to them to use your friends’ data. A company can't ask for that or use that. Even Facebook realised this was a share too far in 2014 and ended the practice (which had until then been employed by 'abusive apps').

However, the argument is that all that data has already been hoarded by the bad guys. But GDPR will make every item they hoard subject to compliance. So even in the case of old data (which  loses its salience by the second in any event) the hoarder must make it easy for anyone to remove their consent and retrieve their data.

That's going to be a challenge for bad actors. And when the auditors come calling they will face fines for every single data point. And these are fines at the scale of 'put you out of business'.

The short term issue for Facebook and, therefore, for much of digital marketing and communications, is the breach of trust. This is based on the notion that we didn't understand the scale of what could be done with the posts and likes and comments we gave away in exchange for better connection with people and information that was useful or interesting to us.

Facebook could act on this, at least re the instance of Fake News. They could set their engineers to work creating an algorithm to automatically add links to fact-checking or cross-checking validated sites.

They could of course do the same for their adverts. Imagine the potential to cut through the lies...

However, these are only solutions if you have difficulty filtering truth from deceit. In reality we humans have a brilliantly well-developed ability to see through bull.

Large parts of our brains are dedicated to sorting the trustworthy from the cheats. (Martin Novak's Super Co-operators says this was essential to our ability to live in co-operative societies). Target me with all the propoganda you like, I won't be voting Nazi.

So we do have a responsibility in this as individuals. We choose what we are willing to believe, and we must ensure we apply our innate abilities to spot the fraudulent at all times.

And naturally - any business or organisation handling data must do so with care and with all due respect for the owner. It is this respect for the owner that points to the most critical learning.

If the digital industry takes one thing from Facebook's woes, it should be this:

Since the value of data rapidly decays, the relationship with the human behind the data is always going to be of far greater value than the data assets themselves.

Data is not the relationship. It is the output of a relationship. Get one.

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