I’m not sure whether to read the first line of the CIPR’s manifesto with cautious optimism or pure elation, “The UK General Election of 2015 promises to be most unusual”. Although there is no denying this statement’s truth – from May 2015 we’re going on a roller-coaster ride of unexplored political territory.
The CIPR outlines a number of areas for the next government, including the importance of PR and public affairs, gender equality and Internet governance. Having met the CIPR editorial team, drafting this document may have been stressful – over 11,000 members are about to pass judgement!
However, I feel apprehensive with the CIPR’s summary of data protection in the document. It seems dated as it fails to understand the huge developments that have taken place in the EU. It may also be in danger of going against how CIPR members are currently using social media data to deliver services.
The PR industry relies on the trading of social media users’ data so that it can deliver services and evidence its effectiveness to clients.
When you sign up to Twitter (or any social network), as mentioned by the CIPR, users need to give away their personal data so that it can be bought and sold by Internet organisations. This is the lifeblood of every social media monitoring tool; be it Brandwatch, Radian6 or Pulsar. Without it social media practitioners, such as myself, are unable to effectively manage or measure online activities.
Cynically it could be said that we rely on users blindly signing up to a social networks’ 15,000 word terms and conditions, because without access to user data our jobs are near impossible. Of course, a user only gains from giving away personal (disposable) information and therefore shouldn’t worry what happens to it. It’s just a tiny sacrifice that is made so that a social network can be used.
Keeping all of this in mind, the CIPR concluded on data protection,
“We therefore have one part of our data environment which is highly regulated and in which citizen’s rights are regarded as pre-eminently important, and another in which there is effectively no meaningful control on the use and re-use of data. This lacks coherence, is not sustainable and will ultimately lead to frustration.”
It’s extremely unclear and disconcerting that the CIPR has suddenly decided to take a stand on data protection without consulting the membership. Especially when it is such a hazy view – not good for clear manifesto points. The “… effectively no meaningful control on the use and re-use of data” directly implies the transaction of a social network selling data to a social insights company. That, for the PR and public affairs industry, must be protected at all costs.
Especially as a large public debate will continue to bubble as the current EU Data Protection Regulation considers the impact of globalisation and social media on data protection (across every EU member state).
The point of this post isn’t to say that the CIPR’s stance is wrong, only unclear. It frustrates me that my representative body hasn’t consulted its members on data protection, especially as there must be hundreds of better-qualified thinkers than I who could have contributed to this manifesto.
I would like to see the CIPR take more action on data protection and develop the ideas summarised in their manifesto. However, we won’t even impress our political allies unless we can demonstrate an up-to-date knowledge of current data protection developments.
But… despite the little bit on data protection, the rest of the manifesto is fab!