The Data Evolution: Brands, privacy and being responsible in a digital world

Featuring insights from social media expert and digital influencer Matt Navarra. We caught up with him following the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica scandal to discover his insights on brands, privacy and being responsible in a digital world.

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Barely a quarter into 2018, and for Facebook, the most memorable moment of the year has probably already happened. Cambridge Analytica, user data privacy, and those infamous congress hearings have dominated newsfeeds and newsstands for months – and the impact has been felt across the world.

Facebook’s lack of awareness in the face of a multitude of changes was key to the level of controversy. Developments such as the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, a rise in public awareness about data privacy, and users increasingly choosing to share data in more private spaces made the social network giant’s failure to take action all the more staggering.

These shifts have propelled the platform into dangerous waters faster than ever, and the firm’s ongoing attempts to satisfy the conflicting needs of a diverse audience has only compounded matters. Facebook users’ desire for more privacy control and fewer ads presents a challenge to advertisers’ drive to target their audience more effectively, while investors and shareholders aim to maximise profits from advertisers without upsetting social network users themselves.

The result is an imbalanced and uncertain future – especially given the widespread use of Facebook across the globe – but how has this increased scrutiny around data privacy affected brands at a wider level? At first glance, the impact seems limited – a few household names, such as Tesla, SpaceX, Playboy, Jim Carrey and Steve Wozniak have publicly declared a Facebook boycott – but the network’s share price and usage rates have stayed surprisingly resilient. A closer look, however, shows the beginnings of a more extensive culture shift in how we take care of our data in an increasingly shared world.

In a survey of 900 decision-makers by information management company, Veritas Technologies, 91 per cent said their business lacked a culture of strong data management. Carried out in the lead-up to GDPR implementation, the survey also found that 88 per cent planned to use the changes to motivate a positive attitudinal shift among staff. Alongside the Facebook furore, it’s clear that mindsets are starting to change, with the need for a greater focus on data handling front of mind for brands and businesses across the board.

Data should be one of the key priorities in 2018, and GDPR has come at a resonant time for that priority to be put into the spotlight. Brands should be considering how to go above and beyond the new regulatory requirements – how to generate a shift in mindset, culture and behaviour in their organisations, and future-proof every operation as they do. For years, Facebook has been an assured household name, and its partial demise under the Cambridge Analytica scandal should prompt a more rigorous assessment of potential partners’ abilities to protect and use customer data safely and securely.

A change in culture means listening to the needs of users, who – in a post-GDPR era – will be more attuned to these issues. It’s time to listen, collaborate and learn with care, as businesses and audiences respond by taking ownership and asking questions.

As brands and businesses move forward in a GDPR-compliant world, building belief in the importance of data protection is key to creating meaningful change and lasting impact. Often, that starts with leading by example, implementing safe data policies in a transparent way, and encouraging clients to follow suit. It’s about developing a reciprocal process that simultaneously strengthens business reputation and customer loyalty.

GDPR presents the perfect opportunity to refresh cybersecurity policies, improve existing customer data, build trust through reduced risk, and ultimately – boost revenue through more accurate operations. This is just the start of businesses putting data privacy at the heart of their operations, and it’s time to commit fully to that focus.