12 Apr Tech’s collective shambles: Data leaks and accountability
As a marketer, I’m often surprised by how much the average person doesn’t understand about social media and privacy. I know someone who found out one of her wedding photos was being used as a promotional cover for a problematic romance novel. She customized her privacy settings to the best of her ability and never expected something like this could happen. She thought her privacy settings were enough, but what about her friends? And their friends? How many degrees of separation does an average person need to take into consideration when it comes to sharing information with their social circle?
I used to think the people who were creeped out by retargeted ads just weren’t paying attention to the permissions they grant social media networks, but in light of recent events, it’s clear that’s not the only case. We’ve been kept in the dark about the furthest reaches of our data, and unless your job pays you to sift through the bowels of social media, you’re unlikely to find out until things go horribly wrong. Why? Because a cover-up job is more convenient than accountability.
Where are the ethics?
“Hi, I’m Mark. I bet you’re wondering how I got into this mess.”
It’s because you haven’t been transparent with your users.
We’ve been seeing data breaches time and time again with Equifax, Under Armour, and even Grindr sharing the HIV statuses of their users. This is insane. Users often don’t realize just how much privacy we’ve handed over until it comes back to bite, and in these cases that’s not entirely the user’s fault…it’s the platform’s. If the heavy hitters want to stay giants, at some point they’ll have to invest in supporting their communities with every choice they make, not just the visible ones.
Who cares about the public?
Facebook has known about Cambridge Analytica since 2015. But how could they keep the psychological warfare under wraps for years? Well, because they were pretty much doing the same thing without your consent. Meanwhile, we can’t even get a chronological Instagram feed over here!
More or less the same thing happened with Equifax, Panera, and all of the others. When there’s a data breach, they’re more interested in staying silent in the hopes the public won’t find out than protecting their users.
Why is support non-existent?
And what do these brands all have in common? Their silence has shown that customer service isn’t the priority. They want to be leaders without committing to the level of customer service we’ve all come to expect.
I’ve been working on a side hustle for these past few months and turned to Instagram to market my work. (Which is a great idea as long as you don’t run into any problems with the platform.) I created an ad, deleted it later on, and since that day 3 months ago, I haven’t been able to see notifications for the entire account. I’ve submitted 14 reports since it’s happened and have received absolutely no updates.
I recently read an article on Nir Eyal’s blog, and in it, he asked Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, what he wanted his legacy to be. The answer? “Consumer science.” He explained, “Leaders like Steve Jobs have a sense of style and what customers seek, but I don’t. We need consumer science to get there.”
Customer service isn’t going to be innate to everyone, but companies this large have the means to figure it out if they chose to put an ounce of effort into it. Netflix chose to commit to their consumers, and in return, has built a lucrative business and a loyal following. Bad things happen to businesses all of the time, but you can still manage to keep your customers happy if you invest in a customer service team that listens to them. People want to be acknowledged.
Let’s put an end to the smokescreen
This is what happens when trying to serve users and advertisers at the same time goes horribly wrong. These platforms have gone from being some of our favorite ways to connect to a necessary evil.
It’s about time tech giants show us we’re more than a quick buck and get straightforward about how our information can be shared and exploited…by them and by third parties. And this colossal PR nightmare can serve as a warning to us all in the meantime: You’ve got to be fairly transparent, responsive when your users reach out and hold yourself accountable before you’re caught in a compromising position. That means investing in your customers and investing in a supportive relationship with them.