Gafa Police Squad – do we need a new data regulator with GDPR about to land?

Gafa Police Squad – do we need a new data regulator with GDPR about to land?

Written by Dominic Weeks, Head of Technology.

It’s hard to take a breath from the events of last week with staggering revelations relating to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica dominating the front pages. There has been some fantastic reporting from the Observer/Guardian team, the Times, Channel 4 News and a host of other leading tech and political journalists in uncovering an array of hugely important angles. It feels like the fourth estate, operating on overdrive, has blown wide open the public debate on privacy and the state of our democracy (with the significant caveat that social scientists have scoffed at the claims of prowess espoused by Cambridge Analytica).

So what to say about it all from a communications perspective? There’s a lot that could (and has, and will) be said about the handling of the media storm by the major protagonists here. What interests me more than recriminations over how the crisis was handled by these individual players though, is where the tech industry goes from here in rebuilding public trust and positive sentiment? I mean, good lord, things were rocky as it was.

A New Sheriff in Town?

One key strand of the debate on “what next” has been calls for a new global digital regulator or some form of vast regulatory intervention. The Guardian’s editorial last week stated that “the challenge goes beyond the application of existing rules” in ensuring that the power of Gafa – Google, Amazon,  Facebook and Apple (sometimes I feel for Microsoft, it’s like the Pete Best of the tech scene at the moment) – is contained to prevent consumer harm.

The danger here might be the conflation of two different threats – one of the growing monopolies and network effects of large tech players (which we have seen the EU attempt to curtail under the auspices of antitrust rulings) and the other that relates to consumer data protection. 

That’s not so say that the two aren’t related. It’s inarguable at this point that existing regulation and/or enforcement of such has not protected consumers, and those network effects that have continually strengthened the large tech players have enabled them to act with a degree of nonchalance to the packaging and sale of our data. However, this scandal, related mainly to lax protection of our data, perhaps needs to be considered in the light of what we already have in place in terms of regulation, before we rush to add more.  

While I am not a lawyer, from what I can tell the spirit and indeed the specifics of GDPR serve to address many of the data privacy concerns we have seen over the last seven days, provided the regulation has teeth and capacity for enforcement. There are already suggestions that the British-body charged with enforcing the regulation, the ICO, should be allowed to perform dawn raids as opposed to having to obtain a warrant (it took them nearly a week to do so in relation to Cambridge Analytica).

Unity Behind Better Data Privacy

Key tenets of GDPR are that organizations must obtain informed consent from users for specific uses of their data and that they must inform them if, for any reason, their data is compromised. Clearly the whole sorry tail unfolding last week would have been in serious breach of these GDPR provisions, notably because the users in question have still not been officially informed that their data was compromised. Under GDPR, Facebook would have faced a 4% fine from the EU on annual turnover, amounting to $1.6 billion based on Facebook’s 2017 revenue. That would create a lot of shareholder pressure not to be in breach.

Without these regulations at present and thanks to great investigative journalism, investors can now see the writing on the wall for some of the lucrative data sharing practices, and many are voting with their feet. Facebook’s share price down around 13 percent, wiping well over $50 billion off the company’s market capitalization since this time last week. But we can’t always rely on the muckrackers – perhaps ironically, Facebook has hurt digital media’s monetization efforts, contributing to strapped resources. So we’re going to need these existing regulations to be sharp and for companies to be audited by the bodies responsible.

The EU is also in the process of introducing ePrivacy, so there is already more regulation on the way designed to protect consumer’s data privacy in areas like unsolicited marketing. Amir Malik, digital marketing lead for Accenture was quoted in Digiday today saying “GDPR and ePrivacy will gain more momentum and credibility in the wake of this scandal.”

There’s 58 days until GDPR comes into effect. The wider tech industry, not just Gafa, could benefit from taking stock and lending public support to the aims of GDPR. It might restore public faith and prevent reactionary doubling up of regulation and enforcement that weakens, rather than strengthens, data protections. Rallying around GDPR publicly as a workable framework by large American tech companies with which to comply may also set a global standard that is followed, perhaps encouraging even the U.S. to implement more consumer protections.

Starting new efforts now could hurt both consumers, large companies and nascent startups.

A Voice (Not) Crying Out in the Desert

All of that said, it may be naïve to expect the tech industry to speak up in support of the existing and pending EU legislation as frameworks that can prevent the worst excesses of data monetization. Individual firms may be hesitant and, as we’ll see from my next blog post detailing the findings from Madano’s study of how industries have vocalized opinions on Brexit, the tech industry in Europe seemingly does not have a unified voice from industry bodies telling its side of the story (more on that later in the week). Can it find that voice on data privacy measures?  

Madano supports technology companies deliver their business objectives in highly competitive and disruptive markets.

Why data-driven email design and marketing really matter in 2018…

Why data-driven email design and marketing really matter in 2018…

Written by John Twinn, Senior CRM Manager at Madano. 

Imagine a drive in an unfamiliar area with no sat nav or map. On this trip, the road signs are personalised to your route, meaning not having to scan old style generic signs for the directions relevant to you. Your life made faster and easier by information relevant to you. This is the goal of email marketing. Emails to engage with customers and stakeholder should be seen as signposts to direct and engage readers to take action (click) and move through a digital journey (often towards purchase or conversion).

In 2018, these signposts must become highly personal ones with content that is truly relevant to the reader.

Without relevant content, your audiences will not engage with your key messages. Relevance also helps establish trust within your email audience, the second crucial ingredient for engagement. In the past, email campaigns were served with one-size-fits-all strategies, because using data intelligence was not cost effective or possible with limited resource. But we are now in an age of Big Data and machine learning, allowing marketers to seize the opportunity to use dynamic content. The days of sending the same content to all subscribers is over. Personalisation is a key mechanism to deliver truly relevant, 1 to 1 content across the life cycle of the average email subscriber. Now utilising automation can leverage data to provide a personal experience at scale.

However, it is also important to recognise there is a balance to be struck between personalised content and allowing subscribers to “discover” content organically. We, as subscribers, want to feel valued by brands we like, but also feel we are finding content for ourselves too. This balance is a tough, yet important, one to strike.    

Analysing audience behaviour will help drill down to what is working and effective in an email strategy, especially design, and what isn’t. For instance, you might find longer content (e.g. large images or long copy) are forcing Call-To-Action buttons (CTAs) further down the hierarchy within the email, especially on mobile devices. Therefore, returning fewer clicks than shorter content might do. This can be for several reasons, including:

  • We live in a fast moving society where people don’t have the time, attention span, or the inclination to pour through long emails.
  • The CTAs are simply missed as it requires too much scrolling.
  • Giving too much information reduces curiosity, thus affecting the propensity to click through as the reader has already found enough information within the email content.

The most effective way of discovering more about your audience is to test, learn, refine and test again! Testing everything from subject lines, sender names, different content approaches and/or send times can really help to deliver key insights around individual subscriber behaviour.

It can seem daunting to move to a more data-driven approach to design, content and email marketing in general but the results will prove it all worthwhile, both for brands and their subscribers.

You can either drive with relevant directions or navigate without them. You may know where you want to go, but do you have a strategy to actually get there?

If you want to know more about how Madano (and John) can help you with your email marketing contact John at [email protected].

Follow John on Twitter for more on Email Marketing at @MailTwinn

It’s time to embrace 5G, not delay it

It’s time to embrace 5G, not delay it

Written by Kelvin Morgan, Account Manager at Madano

Fifth-generation connections, also known as 5G, are not only set to be the fastest mobile network connection ever, allowing you to download movies in seconds, but it will transform the way we live.

5G will provide faster data speeds, lower latency and will greatly expand capacity across networks, allowing for more devices to run simultaneously. This is a huge benefit to the consumer who might be catching up on their Netflix series whilst commuting. However, the most exciting part is the impact 5G will have on the Internet of Things (IoT).

5G is the enabler for IoT but do consumers and businesses know that? Operators won’t act unless there is demand and so this presents a challenge and an opportunity to tell the story more clearly, and reaffirm the urgency for change and investment in this field. 

The ability to transmit data 10 times faster than current standards and the corresponding increased capacity will allow for so many more everyday devices to be linked to the internet.  This can pave the way for everything to be smart, be it a home, a grid or even a city.

As individuals, we may already be able to turn lights on in different rooms but what about coming home to the heating on at the right temperature, and to a robot who processes measurements from your smartwatch so it can prepare the meals your body requires. This futuristic world is not as far away as you may think but it requires the intensely high degree of connectivity that 5G will provide.

As a society, it will impact how we live together. In Britain, we are not building enough homes. Offsite manufacturing is seen as a potential solution to our problems and with 5G, the process can become streamlined. If interlinked with initiatives such as component tracking, the use of cameras on drones and smart hats, which can all relay information to each other instantaneously, then this will drive down deficiency and increase productivity in the construction industry.

Imagine the roads with smart streetlights that turn on when self-driving cars approach, or where cars communicate with each other so they’re equal distance apart, helping tackle traffic flow and reducing journey times. This interconnectivity of devices will surely bring greater efficiencies in energy usage, leading to a more sustainable world.

Every day there are reports of NHS problems. But instead of visiting a hospital, patients could have virtual appointments with doctors, wherever either party is. Wearables, monitoring devices and sensors can become always connected, allowing for data to be transferred in real time, so health providers can diagnose and prescribe in a more streamlined manner.  

Transport for London recently revealed that 4G coverage might be on the Tubes soon; however rail network connectivity needs to improve before any key routes can operate using 5G. Investment in 4G infrastructure has seen limited improvements to services but with 5G on the horizon and in action at the recent Mobile World Congress, let us hope that this will signal change and engage businesses and government to embrace the technology now.

With increased efficiency and the ability to transmit data much faster, consumers and businesses can use more connected devices as part of the Internet of Things, which will transform the way we live. 5G may not be on shores until 2020, but there is a lot to get excited about in the meantime.

Madano supports technology companies deliver their business objectives in highly competitive and disruptive markets.

Madano-BOLDT Study: UK and European businesses are keeping their heads down on Brexit

Madano-BOLDT Study: UK and European businesses are keeping their heads down on Brexit

The first ever social media study of industry attitudes to Brexit has found that British and European companies are keeping their heads down in the Brexit debate, instead leaving communications to their pan-European trade associations. The study was conducted by London-based Madano and Brussels-based BOLDT, which have teamed up to provide a joint Brexit offering.

The study found that UK and European companies from selected countries (including EFTA members Norway and Switzerland) show comparable levels of engagement on Twitter when it comes to Brexit. But they express different concerns. While UK companies tend to focus on the sectoral impact of Brexit, their European counterparts talk mostly about the macro-economic consequences of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Trade associations are most worried about the impact on trade, labour shortages, supply chains and regulation. The financial sector is by far the most active sector across the UK and Europe when it comes to tweeting on Brexit, with a possible sector downturn emerging as its primary concern.

“Companies across the UK and Europe are in denial about the hard trade-offs ahead with Brexit”, said Michael Evans, Managing Partner, Madano. “Analysing their social media channels, it is clear that many companies believe that Brexit is an issue for their respective pan-European trade bodies to communicate about. Given the current state of EU-UK negotiations over Brexit, we feel that this is a huge potential mistake given the vacuum that this creates. How much longer can the mantra of business as usual last?”

Michiel van Hulten, Founding Partner, BOLDT continued, “The finance, construction and food and drink industries appear to share similar concerns on both sides of the Channel. But there is a clear divergence of views in pharma, tech, energy and transport, where sector-specific issues such as the relocation of the European Medicines Agency from London to Amsterdam and the future of data protection rules are having an impact. These differences will become more apparent as the negotiations on a new trading arrangement between the UK and the EU27 get underway. And they are likely to cause tensions within pan-European trade bodies, which could lead to them breaking up or UK companies being relegated to observer status.”

Key findings include:

  • Of 1,000 top companies examined, 701 had a Twitter account, and 165 tweeted about Brexit, producing 2,440 tweets – 43% of the total.
  • 28% of UK companies tweeted about Brexit, as opposed to 26% of European companies.
  • 93 trade bodies were examined; of these 53 (57%) tweeted about Brexit, producing 3,250 tweets – 57% of the total.
  • 82% of the company tweets were on ‘business as usual’ themes – commitment to the UK, company robustness, preparation and customer support.
  • UK companies are more concerned about a potential downturn in their sector than European companies (19.2% vs 16.5%).
  • Transport trade bodies are most concerned about market access (27% of tweets), supply chain (19%), sector downturn (18%) and labour shortages (15%).
  • Trade bodies in the construction and housing industry are worried about labour shortages (40%) and supply chain (30%).
  • The pharma sector is most vocal on regulation (29%) and supply chain (28%) issues.
  • For the energy sector, regulation (43%) is the biggest concern, followed at some distance by sector downturn (17%). But the sector is more optimistic than other sectors about new market opportunities resulting from Brexit (12%).
  • Food and beverage trade bodies tweet about supply chain issues (20%), sector downturn (19%) and labour shortages 17%.
  • The tech sector frets about market access (33%) and labour shortages – but of the highly skilled variety (28%).
  • Finance is concerned about a possible sector downturn (33%, the highest of any sector) as well as market access (19%).

View findings from the study ‘What do European and UK companies think of Brexit? A social media perspective’

About the study

This joint Madano-BOLDT analysis is based on research conducted by Madano’s specialist Insights team in January and February 2018, which gathered and analysed the social media activity of 1,000 of the top companies in Europe based on revenue. From this number, 701 twitter accounts were identified. It was found that 165 companies have tweeted about Brexit in 2017. The study also identified 93 trade bodies from across Europe of which 53 have tweeted about Brexit.

Madano extracted around 5,000 tweets from companies and trade bodies across the UK and Europe last year that mentioned Brexit, and it is on the basis of this sample that the analysis was made. Madano analysed key topics such as the economic, industry and company impacts across different sectors including finance, insurance, technology, engineering, energy, built environment, aerospace & defence, chemicals, pharma, industrial, transport, telecoms, food & drink and mining.

From Poster Child to Public Enemy – how can tech firms in the UK navigate a converging set of reputational challenges

From Poster Child to Public Enemy – how can tech firms in the UK navigate a converging set of reputational challenges

By Dominic Weeks, Head of Technology

In January, the Economist ran a cover feature looking at how to “tame” the tech titans. The thrust of the article focused on protecting consumers from rampant monopolies and anti-competitive practices, and, of course, erosion of privacy caused by the likes of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Many mainstream media outlets have also covered big communications platforms/apps’ fractious relationship with government over controlling the spread of terrorist propaganda and plans, fake news and other illicit content that endangers children. The Prime Minister herself, while embroiled in Brexit, has found time to issue multiple warning shots about the issue. The response hasn’t been perfect by any stretch of the imagination. It was reported this week that Facebook had issued a survey asking whose responsibility it was to police child grooming on the site. 

Why not throw in the perception that tech companies are cheating the tax man as well (a suspicion highlighted by a Tory government no less)? Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, recently outlined a proposal to tax tech companies’ revenues, rather than the profits they recognize in the U.K.

The spectre on the horizon

All of this is not to mention the biggest spectre on the horizon – no, not spectre the chip security flaw, but rather the impact of Artificial Intelligence and a new wave of automation on employment. Amid increasing inequality and employment frustrations in developed nations, the perception is crystallizing that automation is accelerating to the distinct disadvantage of the average worker whose skills are not seemingly redeployable. To add insult to injury, AI is not only replacing many of our core job functions, it is now also deciding whether you are a fit for a job vacancy.

Jamie Bartlett wrote an excellent piece for the Guardian at the weekend, questioning if 2018 might be the year of the neo-Luddite – raising fears that public disaffection might boil over in to protests and even acts of vandalism and/or violence. The appeal within the article to moderates and even tech enthusiasts to recognise that tech might mean harm as well as good should be an eye opener. It’s not just the pitch fork-waving disenfranchised and displaced worker at the margins that distrusts the motivations of tech companies, it’s increasingly a mainstream, and even tech nerd, concern. That will have ramifications.

Expect increased scrutiny, even amidst Brexit

Yes, amidst the hyperbole there have been moderating voices, but any suspicion that the UK’s need to support the economy post-Brexit will lead to a considerably laxer regulatory framework should be treated with due caution. Public opinion in the UK is skewing towards the technophobic,  and that negative attitude threatens innovation in the form of punitive regulation, dampened uptake of new products and services, and the already emerging talent shortage.

For Britain’s fragile start-up ecosystem this is a concern. How can a bootstrapped tech business, not yet at the point of profitability, differentiate itself from Facebook and Google in the eyes of the public and policymakers? On a smaller budget, how can it navigate the above challenges? The Government needs to create the right conditions for innovation to succeed in the UK but it’s a challenge with young women put off STEM subjects and tech careers, and a general shortage of the appropriate skills, particularly when the industry now has a reputation that might actually be worse than that enjoyed by bankers. 

The industry, across the spectrum, needs to assess how it can tell a more positive story and satisfactorily address many legitimate public concerns. That might be through greater coordination and contributions to industry trade bodies like Tech City UK, but it is also likely about individual firms undertaking more careful and proactive management of corporate reputation on the ground, versus 3,000 miles away in Silicon Valley. It starts with a wake-up call to the parlous state of reputations in the sector at large and an understanding of how this will impact agendas and businesses in the years to come. It will be fascinating to see how tech companies respond – proactively engaging to control their narrative, or falling back on crisis communications when there is trouble at the mill. 

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