How can a Nest be evil?

| 07 Nov, 2014
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In this Insights video Matt Owen talks about Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of 'Internet of Things' company Nest.This acquisition has prompted a lot of speculation and hyperbole in the press around the evils of Google and how it's going to be intruding into our homes.

Video Transcript

Hi. My name is Matt Owen, and I'm Managing Director of Jellyfish U.K. The title of this video is 'How can a Nest be evil?'

This is spurred on by the recent news of Google's $3.2 billion acquisition of 'Internet of Things' company Nest. They're the guys who do the smart smoke alarms and smart thermostats.

This acquisition has prompted a lot of speculation and hyperbole in the press around the evils of Google and how it's going to be intruding into our homes. It's nicely summed up this cartoon, here. Have a look at that. It's actually quite funny.

It's also been picked up by lots of news organisations, and I think it sort of prompts an interesting conversation around exactly what does this mean for us in the world of digital marketing, and the realisation that the data that we use everyday to help us to market to consumers is really, really important to us.

So there are maybe two contexts to think about here. You may be in a conversation with your CEO or your CFO, and they're asking you the question as to how do we treat data? How do we really safeguard our customers' privacy?

The other conversation is with customers. As marketing people, you're inevitably going to be entwined in that communication, so customers need a very consistent view from us, as digital marketers, to ensure that they understand the truth, and not the exaggeration around that.

So I'm just going to suggest three issues that you can use to sort of frame your conversations and your thought processes.

The first one is really around the context and the environment of data. So let's just recap on the fact that the internet is an exchange medium. I exchange my behaviour and my data with lots of internet providers in exchange for free email services, photo sharing services, the use of news websites, and so on. It's a fundamental principle of how the internet has become an amazing source of information, news, learning, and innovation.

If by being concerned, or overly concerned around data, we start to reduce the way that that content is created and propagated, and that's a real problem for the freedom of the internet.

The second issue is just to get a reality check on what's actually happening here and how the data is used. So, you know, ask ourselves, 'What's the evil that Facebook or Google are doing with this data? Is it making me sit through TV ads that I don't want to watch? Is it interrupting my music enjoyment by interrupting radio ads? Is it actually peering into my email, like the Gmail man you can see here?'

Of course, it's none of those things. Essentially Google is providing us with a very focused and contextual advertising medium which is probably pretty useful to most people. So, you know, it's not a bad thing that's going on here, even slightly.

The third point, I think, is comparison. Comparison is always useful when we're trying to benchmark things against each other. So when we think around organisations that gather data, on the one hand, there is the NSA, GCHQ. They're engaged in very broad reaching programs around harvesting text messaging data, as you can see here, even looking at the data within Angry Birds, somewhat bizarrely, to track user behaviour.

Now, we might think that they have a sufficient mandate to do that in the public interest, but there are other organisations, such as telcos, ISPs, supermarkets who hold masses of data around individual consumers. And yet, there seems to be very little discussion around the way that these organisations are using our data, whereas; there is plenty of news around Google, Facebook, Microsoft, these kinds of organisations. I wonder why that is? So that's interesting to bear in mind.

I guess in terms of actions we can take, for me, there is a key action for all of us, as digital marketers, and this is just around knowing the facts. So think about those three issues I've just mentioned and understand how you, as an organisation, manage cookie links, permissions, opt-in policy and data retention. All of these things are facts that will help you to present your argument, your discussion in a way that is away from conjecture and hysteria, frankly.

Just one more fact about Google, by the way, which you may not know. There is an organisation within Google called the Data Liberation Front. Here's their logo. There principle is really about ensuring if you don't like Google, you can extract all of your data. Now, I would love to see that kind of freedom of information movement from organisations such as mobile phone providers. I think it's probably very unlikely.

So finally, a reminder. Just know your facts. This is a very emotive issue for many people, but as digital marketers, digital data, data is the DNA of what we do, so it's our responsibility to ensure that we know the issues, we understand those issues, and that we can frame a sensible conversation that's based on fact and not mythology.

Okay. Thanks for your time.

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