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Laura's Word 4 July 2013

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Happy Fourth of July!

Laura's Word 4 July 2013

Happy Fourth of July! We might be holed up in London and Hong Kong, but the LBB team is not about to let an excuse for beer and fireworks pass us by. But while Americans – and honorary Americans – around the world gather to celebrate, it seems that this year’s Independence Day is unfolding under something of a cloud.  Thanks to recent revelations via Edward Snowden regarding the NSA’s data-rifling habits, the ‘Land of the Free’ brand has taken a bit of a knocking over the past couple of weeks.

In January, futurecasters and trend clairvoyants were adamant that 2013 would be the year that Big Data became a mainstream talking point – but no one could have predicted that it would happen in such a dramatic fashion. It’s been a watchable combination of Catch Me If You Can, Enemy of the State, Bourne and the Social Network. If you listen hard enough, you can hear the furious typing of a thousand Hollywood screenwriters racing to finish a treatment.

We’ve all known that the likes of Google, Facebook and countless other brands have been mining our electronic data and we’re still as addicted as ever. That little whoosh of dopamine every time we get a re-tweet turns our smartphones into a shinier, appier version of that classic piece of psychological apparatus, the Skinner Box. And when was the last time you used an A to Z to navigate your way to a meeting? Judging by enthusiasm on display at the Google Party in Cannes and the fact that the carrier pigeon and sealing wax industries have not reported a massive upsurge in sales, it seems that most people are willing to accept a little intrusion in exchange for convenience.

Of course, the recent revelations are a different beast – when it’s nation states rather than brands doing the snooping the implications are more serious. I’ve read too many dystopian novels and consumed too much sci-fi not to get a little paranoid. There have been a few disgruntled noises coming from the governments of several countries and it looks like the news might even derail major trade talks between the US and France and Germany. Wars have been waged over less.  

Now that novelty of the Snowden thriller has faded a little it will be interesting to see whether there will be any lasting impact, either on a political or personal level. And what might that mean for brands? With eerie timing, the most recent Microsoft campaign that went live in April emphasised a respect for privacy in order to differentiate the brand from Google. They, along with the other tech giants that have allegedly cooperated with the NSA's Prism programme, strongly deny any involvement but the juxtaposition of these allegations with their privacy promise campaign illustrates just how careful brands have to be when they talk about what they do with our information and correspondence. Will people start demanding greater security and transparency from brands that farm their data? I'm still not convinced that we're about to wean ourselves off social media or smartphones anytime soon, but there are bound to be some tricky conversations over the coming months.

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 03 Jul 2013 14:50:37 GMT