Facebook and Snapchat come under more fire – ‘Big Data’ users like media agencies face a worrying 2014

Will 2014 be the year that so-called ‘Big Data,’ the great, slightly off-white hope for many of the world’s digital media businesses and some agencies, comes under game-changing pressure from privacy campaigners?

snowden102way_sq-e640efc5481e6a88137c4aa402822717bc5c48b2-s6-c30We’ve had Edward Snowden’s revelations (left) about the nefarious activities of America’s National Security Agency and its allies like Britain’s GCHQ electronic spying agency and the help they’ve received from the likes of Google and Facebook already.

Now Facebook is facing a class action suit in the US from two users who claim it routinely clocks ‘private’ messages including links to other sites. These are added to ‘likes’ for advertising purposes, they allege. They back their case by saying that Facebook app developers are told to make this possible.

Class action lawsuits are a popular sport in the US of course but Facebook’s race to maximise its ad revenue is bound to lead to such pressures. The company faces a tricky year as it also tries to convince teenies to stay on the site despite moms, dads and maiden aunts appearing on it in ever-larger numbers.

All of this has quite serious implications for the new generation of data-driven media agencies, most notably WPP Digital with its Xaxis ‘big data’ operation and also Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi. Plus all the numerous independents who use such data to provide new spins for advertisers.

Last year saw the rapid growth in popularity of indie rival Snapchat, which supposedly gets rid of your personal data after a few seconds, which Facebook tried and failed to buy for $3bn. But Snapchat has just been hacked, putting nearly five million users’ personal data at risk.

It’s all a bit of a mess really; most people accept that using social media (even the internet itself) results in handing over some personal data. But there should be limits, especially on who sees it and what they do with it.

We really need some of these lawyers (preferably a gaggle of judges somewhere powerful like the US) to produce a kind of Bill of Rights for the internet. Will it happen in 2014? Big companies will lobby furiously against it.

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