Privacy is dead. What now?

The communications world has, yet again, turned itself upside down. Usually, it’s the result of a technological advancement or some other new form of digesting information; we’re talking ‘internet’ or ‘targeted content’ kind of game changers here. This latest evolution is driven by something else entirely; the maelstrom-esque zeitgeist of modern-day politics has changed how privacy, influence and identity itself interacts with our daily job functions. 

Let’s start with some baseline examples, and then get into how it affects you in your everyday function as a communicator.

  • The White House has recently nullified S.J.Res. 34, the FCC’s rule on privacy of customers of broadband and other telecommunications services.
  • Verizon’s most recent transparency report reveals an enormous spike in government requests for ‘cell tower dumps,’ in areas ranging from police investigations to, you guessed it, mass protests of all sorts.
  • DreamHost LLC, a web hosting company, has been ordered to comply with a government warrant seeking personal information from subscribers of one of its websites: those involved in a presidential inauguration protest.

We could go on, but the takeaway is this: There is now a concentrated, successful effort by the American government (and of course internationally) to peel back the curtain of those using their voice in ways that not everyone likes. While it’s an ongoing conversation, it is likely that through these techniques and many other methods, privacy and protest are no longer compatible with each other, and anonymity in the political sphere is essentially dead. Instead of calling for revolution, let’s list out a few things that make these developments immediately relevant to your area of expertise:

  • If all opinions and actions are now attributable directly to you, your media targets or your clients, make them count: Register your own name, everywhere. Increase your voice. Do not hide. The flip side of privacy falling by the wayside is the rise of the public citizen, a powerful force in any conversation.
  • This is the endgame of influencer relations, a golden scenario of targeted coverage. Follow the long-tail of these developments, or even current examples of the so-called “Facebook echo chamber,” and you’ll see that it is now possible to create materials and assets through your communications programs that have measurable impact on a micro-targeted level. If everyone is forced to wear their preferences in the public sphere, everyone is an influencer and follower alike at all times, and that makes them more easily accessible for you.
  • Finally, these developments call for a rise in corporate responsibility beyond the scale of any current program. Never forget that there is technically no person walking around named Apttus, Target or Facebook. Corporations are made up of people and reflect the opinions and actions of those in charge. And the people in charge? Their first responsibility is to be influenced by their employees and react accordingly. The result of these employees being exposed on every level is the final removal of any excuse larger organizations have to not be involved in any kind of public discourse, political or otherwise.

One final note, this is not a particularly easy scenario to digest. Let it sink in. But don’t let that paralyze your actions; personally or professionally, the world has changed and we all need to adapt to stay ahead of what’s next.

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