A real hit for data sharing?

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Being a technology PR agency, data plays a key role for many of our clients, across a wide variety of sectors.

In the early part of this decade, big data was a serious buzzword. Mention it in your article or media briefing and coverage was all but guaranteed. Then the backlash began. “Not another big data story” or “if I receive one more big data pitch, I will throw my computer out of the window” were not uncommon tweets to see from our colleagues on tech desks up and down the country.

The great thing about working in the technology industry is, of course, that nothing ever stays the same. Just as the big data debate has moved on from what it “is” to what it is “doing”. And then comes the legislation.

The new EU data protection regime, currently well into its transition period, is keeping many organisations on their toes, making for a hugely interesting time to be involved in PR! The lengthy debates, the stark differences in opinion and the businesses scratching around to show compliance have created a hotbed of activity.

So it was interesting last week to see the furore over WhatsApp’s controversial privacy policy, specifically in sharing users’ phone numbers with Facebook. This was announced on Thursday despite the social network paying £14bn for WhatsApp two years ago. Needless to say, it has caused instant backlash. We learned last week that the Information Commissioner’s Office will “look into” its compliance with data protection laws. Better yet, this information was gleaned by Twitter! How’s that for the power of social media…

In short, the new privacy policy means WhatsApp can share data, including your phone number, with Facebook to allow the social network to deliver better targeted adverts and friend suggestions. It will also gain information such as your device type and software details, though the message content itself will continue to be encrypted. Users can opt out of sharing data with Facebook, but will have to agree to the privacy policy within 30 days.

Examples like this are just the tip of a very large iceberg for a PR agency. This media storm will pass, but we know full well that another is just around the corner.

The danger with this insatiable media appetite for content is falling into the trap of “me too”. Peddling comment for the sake of it, hoping for a few bits of coverage offering no real purpose. This is why I have such faith in Whiteoaks’ dedicated team of copywriters. They live and breathe tech, understand the trends and hot topics and elevate the conversation to “cut through the noise”. It is a real skill that sets our content apart.

Fortunately, the future is looking bright, particularly when it comes to data.