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Posts Tagged ‘Privacy

Reputation, the new transparency and exploding cigars

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News Corporation’s brand goes “boom”

People the world over recently got a look at the inner workings of News Corporation, its culture and levels of corruption. Some have labelled alleged criminal activity as that usually found on film screens and in novels. Elements of the story are truly stranger than fiction.

Murdoch’s media empire is definitely taking more than a couple of body blows. Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post are just a few of the properties News Corporation holds.

With more than 10,000 hacks into people’s private lives, the News Corporation story created a climate of outrage. People, even on the periphery of concerns regarding privacy, reacted through social media. They want boycotts. Murdoch has been physically jostled on the street, and he seems to have lost some of his composure and his air of supreme confidence in the wake of the scandal.

With all the recent news regarding mobile phones, and Apple’s being branded as “Big Brother” by privacy advocates over location-based tracking issues, not to mention Facebookgate, the News Corporation story is registering high on the shock, dismay and outrage meter.

The Guardian’s relentless pursuit of information in the case revealed that “pinging” journalists at News of the World and The Sun may have incorporated elements of the police, private investigators and mobile phone companies to literally sniff out individuals through triangulation techniques. Sounds like a privacy advocate’s worst-case scenario regarding mobile technology.

How would Philip K. Dick have reacted to the bribing of employees in agencies that hold (and are supposed to protect) personal data? Truth approaches fiction. Money may have passed back and forth between journalists and the police in shades of cartel noir. The News Corporation story has withdrawn a veil of secrecy, and people were revolted by what they saw, read and heard. The public verdict of guilt is already a “done deal”.

Murdoch’s business, because of alleged strong-arm tactics and an attitude of “any political means necessary”, may suffer greatly. Advertisers, investment funds and shareholders don’t want to associate themselves with a brand that fills the public with loathing. Reputation has always been key to an organization’s ability to recover share price after a major market decline – just as reputational issues have often led companies’ shares into a downward spiral.

The scandal has generated some interesting questions:

• Will Britain impose reforms? Prison sentences?
• Will the public outcry for an investigation into elite politics and the media win the day?
• Has awareness of the scandal (worldwide) led to thoughts of the dangers of media abuses? Will awareness lead to substantial change?
• Are cloak and dagger meetings between governments, journalists and lobbyists (to name just a few participants) going to disappear?
• Will people continue to forgo security and rights to privacy so that they can download the latest app?


• Will companies understand that corporate reputation and transparency issues are here to stay and that best practices when it comes to respecting privacy rights and using new location-based technologies are important?

It’s been said before but the best kind of crisis management avoids crises in the first place.

Recent history has provided many corporate darlings who’ve become vilified. It will be interesting to see how the News Corporation scandal turns out and how it affects the company. Since incorporating best practices into strategy regarding privacy issues acts like preventative medicine, companies would be wise to position themselves as exceptional stewards of their customers’ information.

After all, exploding reputational cigars can go off with the power of an H-bomb.

Further reading:

How did they hack everyone’s phones?

How to avoid getting hacked

How reputation affects shareholder opinions: Bad news for (the younger) Murdoch

Reputation matters … Some of the ever-widening ramifications of the News Of The World scandal 


When reality becomes perception

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Reputation and brand: Facebook strikes a blow — against itself

I blogged about social media and a potential backlash to use of private information in “Three digital considerations for the year(s) to come”.  In an interesting twist, “Facebookgate” is a signpost of what not to do on the road to establishing great reputational capital for companies. Not only is use of private information important but immoral tactics employed to “go negative” against competitors reveal the emperor as naked and scared.

Facebook was trying to expose Google for privacy issues through public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. Considering Facebook’s own past issues regarding users’ privacy concerns, the hypocrisy of this tactic is thick and hard to digest. Equally hard to digest is Burson-Marsteller’s use of tactics that have been described as “shadowy”. Burson-Marsteller’s former UK chairman says executives involved in the escapade acted like “backstreet spin merchants”.

Terence Fane-Saunders, ex of Burson-Marsteller UK, soundly criticised his old employer on his company blog, aptly titled:  “What on earth has happened to Burson-Marsteller?”

Obviously, grubby tactics  like those displayed in the Facebookgate case have done a lot of damage to the public relations industry in the past. Such tactics as those employed by Burson-Marsteller have led to the portrayal of public relations practitioners as hacks.

Amazing that such tactics still see the light of day. Facebook is now left with its brand highlighted in the media beside such less-than-brand-enhancing labels as “furtive”, “smear campaign” and “creepy” to list but a few. Not exactly words that most companies would revel in being associated with.

And, of course, every mention of Facebook adds mention of Burson-Marsteller’s involvement and bad public relations practices.

Companies would do well to pay attention to the fallout from such tactics. Perception may be more important than reality, but, in the case of Facebookgate, reality has had an enormous impact on perception. The problem is, in the Facebook case, reality was far worse than almost anybody perceived.


Blogger Soghoian speaks about Facebookgate

Privacy issues: Update on “Three digital considerations for the year(s) to come”

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Is Big Brother following you?

Security issues revealed regarding iPhone

In a piece I wrote a little while ago, “Three digital considerations for the year(s) to come”, I discussed how privacy concerns may continue to gain momentum in our increasingly digitized world. I focused on social media, however, the mobile tools that enable such communication are important.

The Guardian recently published an article, “iPhone keeps records of everywhere you go”, which could be explosive in its revelations. You can watch the video of researchers discussing the “tracking” here.

Coming in the face of RIM being criticized as the most secure mobile network, how will iPhone users respond to Apple? What about policy-makers? How will consumers considering an iPhone purchase respond?

Apple marketing used to use the image of “Big Brother” to portray the competition (Microsoft) in a less than flattering light. But you can’t argue against the fact that this data-gathering of user information seems a lot like the “Big Brother” Apple once targeted in its advertising.

So far, Apple has “declined to respond”. However, communications best practices would suggest that a response should and must come soon.

Will corporate decision-makers take a chance on a product that has such a security flaw? Will RIM’s more secure network look more appealing than ever for the enterprise market?

Will iPhone users look at their phones differently? Will they think differently?

Update: Senator Franken chairs committee on mobile technology and privacyApple and Google have been “invited” to discuss issues related to tracking software and smartphones

Three digital considerations for the year(s) to come

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Will the “app phenomenon” decline?

Are apps yesterday’s news or will they continue to be part of the mobile odyssey?












The revolution may not be “apped”.

Developers may experience “app fatigue”. They may look to a system for mobile web development that doesn’t run on separate mobile operating systems.

Will there be a return to websites and browsers? Will mobile users also experience downloading “app fatigue”? There’s no doubt that a common platform simplifies matters immensely.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and by the way, there’s an app for that. The question is: Have you downloaded it? Will you download it? Or do you have “app fatigue-ia”?

Get your hands off my information!

Will there be a social media privacy backlash?

Social media buzzwords aside, have we become our own worst enemies? Have we thrown our privacy rights straight into the cyberverse?

There’s no doubt that the social media universe is a force to be reckoned with, however, as stories multiply in the media regarding privacy issues, are Facebook (et al) going to face one large public relations nightmare?

While Facebook looks like the organization that may have to contend with this issue more than any other, privacy will grab headlines. LinkedIn operates in a different zone and will most likely not face the same scrutiny as Facebook.

The thing to remember is, as Egypt, usage-based billing  and WikiLeaks have quickly proved, social media vehicles offer just as much opportunity for criticism as they do for dialogue with the consumer. The consumer has a voice tremendously amplified by the bullhorn of digital public opinion (a simple mouse click or button press away). The backlash should present all kinds of transparency issues for government and corporations – which leads nicely into:

Hyper transparency at warp speed

The conversation is indeed multi-directional

If you’re wondering who that is stumbling around in the ring, it’s the U.S. government.

Julian Assange’s name has been branded onto the psyches of government officials and communicators world-wide. But what of corporations? Are they next? Is this the age of the digital whistleblower?

The financial crisis has already caused a massive amount of analysis in the financial sector. What will such scrutiny do to government and business planners?

Crisis and reputation managers are going to need to not only understand such potential hyper transparency issues, but they are going to have to come up with solid strategies to address digitized revolutionaries who know that the revolution will not be televised.

As a matter of fact, in an age of social media tools that project information at light speed, contingency planning strategies had best not be traveling in a vehicle that creeps along at the speed of sound.

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