icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column edited and published by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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Let social media battles end or, at least, be traceable and regulated

About data management, programmatic advertising and other digital challenges for brands

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). Let social media battles end or, at least, be traceable and regulated. About data management, programmatic advertising and other digital challenges for brands. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 3.10 (October).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2014). Let social media battles end or, at least, be traceable and regulated. About data management, programmatic advertising and other digital challenges for brands. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 3.10 (October).

29 October 2014 - "We have almost 60 millions likes on Facebook and almost three million followers on Twitter" told me recently a marketing manager I had just introduced myself and my consultancy services for brands and internet names.

The fast way

"What can you add to us", was the real question the gentleman had in mind, besides the nervousness of the situation (a busy exhibition booth where... everybody wants penniless consultants wandering around, of course) ...

"At the moment, I have zero connections on Linkedin and I am a complete zero on Twitter, not to mention Facebook where I do not exist" I replied, in the hope the gentleman had a vague remembrance of some maths he must have learned at school - so that we may start an adult conversation on the point of metrics.

The gentleman dropped the conversation instead and, very sadly, lost his smile. "But I organised the first ever conference on social network analysis in Italy in 2003" I added quickly. The gentleman went to the back of the booth, without a word.

And that was all of my visit to the booth of the "60 millions likes brand" in this occasion.

Encounters between alpha marketing managers and alpha consultants can be even more disastrous and this was not the only occasion I reminded myself that being an optimist leads always to overestimate people skills and sense of humour. Unfortunately, the velocity of our intuitions does not allow us to communicate effectively with everybody as we would like to, as velocity in communication often means just diminished capacity to make a substantial turn in reasoning and reciprocal understanding when our assumptions collide with other people reality.

The slow way

I have found the recent "Lego vs Greenpeace" saga very disturbing and in some ways shocking as it revealed the ferocity of the media competition for the control of marketing and communication expenditures by global brands. It has also said something about the difficulties of managing changes while staying (or being put) in the public eye.

Did Lego decide to stop their co-branding relationship with Shell Oil because of the short viral success of a Greenpeace video, supported by passionate parents writing letters to newspapers and Facebook walls, or because of the long term campaign against fossil fuel companies embraced by climate change activists and academics all around the world?

And above all, is this the right question? or isn't that just a question put in the public domain to prepare customers to the next Lego's co-branding campaign? Will anybody remember the Greenpeace video, logo and appeal in defence of protection of children next year, when Lego will appear as the main sponsor of the new Jurassic World?

Change is intolerable for somebody but it is absolutely unbearable for brand and marketing managers.

Who is to be allowed to put advertising messages and establish associations, analogies, links among different concepts, people, properties, records and representations? Can such activities through digital and social media spaces (but also through consumer electronics devices, without almost any awareness for the device owner) remain indiscriminately and unreservedly unregulated and ungoverned, and opened to potentially any abusive exercise, test and even organised crimes?

Why somebody should be tolerated for putting their message - whatever they say - on somebody's else digital communication outlets, devices, records held by credit reference agencies and banks and links created by search engines? Could they do the same on physical properties, toys, walls, vehicles or clothes? How dare this or that brand, social group, NGO or even institution or government body jumps on your references in search engines results pages, on your medical records or on your twitter accounts with programmatic advertising displays and associations? just because your data are available in the public domain that does NOT mean I am authorised to experiment ways to monetize them without your consent or even, evidently, against your own wishes and interests - this is the case of experiments in the social media landscape made by governments, research institutions and social services so self-indulgent because of the illusion of savings in public spending through strategies of engagement and volunteering.

And above all, are we sure that we understand who is being abused by whom and who are the real contenders in such social media games among global warriors?

Perhaps because I have been personally affected by the stealing, defamation and antisocial purposes of social media cowboys - and that is the fundamental reason why I do not have social media accounts active at present, in spite of having been a pioneer in adopting social media communication ten years ago - I think that no matter what you have to say, the attitude of attacking others' properties, spaces and rights in order to reach the intended audiences or fight against competitors or imaginary enemies and social problems should be prevented and sanctioned.

The crucial point of data ownership and civil liberties

The excuse of freedom of expression and parody cannot be tolerated when it is managed behind the curtains of protected anonymity by third parties, often with very professionally orchestrated intent of defamation and unfair competition.

And that is particularly true in my view when public records are being used, abused and acted upon for the sake of alleged common interest campaigns and representations that should, allegedly, support people in learning new behaviours.

Conversely, I see we should be all happy to establish, and to have enforceable in practice, the right of people and businesses to be the ultimate owners of their own data, on paper, on line, on air and through any kind of digital service.

This was, in nuce, the revolutionary though still blunt principle of "consent" to treatment of personal data introduced towards the end of the last century by data protection legislation. But civil and criminal legislation is always slow in recognising and determining what constitutes a new type of crime so that, in the meantime, a growing number of companies and individuals have been paying a very high price in terms of reputation, quality of life and economic damages because of their data and private lives just being considered public properties and commodities by gangs, organised groups and powerful competitors.

I appreciated that Sir Tim Berners Lee came forward, eventually, saying clearly that ownership of personal data must stay with the data owner.

The next conceptual step for such principle to be digitally enforceable is that data ownership must be either completely removed from open and shared databases together with the contents (but for the administrative metadata that provide an historical trail for auditing and research purposes) when there is no further need to process the data or completely disclosed at all times when, conversely, there is a constant interest in protecting the data owner from fraudulent associations. Making false associations always visible and recognisable is the the best way to prevent and control them. Disclosing authenticated transactions and data trails within public processes (as it happens in Belgium for instance) would immediately allow a better control of frauds, errors and malfeasance in public records.

Because we know, as a civilised society, that the fundamental mechanism of frauds consists exactly in the establishment of false associations, currently or retrospectively, in a deceptive manner. Social media and programmatic advertising have been disgracefully playing games with that, exploiting ambiguities and flawed data processes.

It must become instead a common cultural clue, implicit knowledge and enforceable legal principle that if I say something that you do not like about you and your spouse or your vested interests, especially if you are a billionaire and I am a penniless consultant!, or if you have a criminal record and I have a reputation of credible information management expert, you do not have any right to use your power of influence and social control in order to abuse of my personal data, or to corrupt, falsify and influence or reframe words, links and other digital objects attributable to my social network and professional environments or even my relatives in order to spoil my reputation and to make me jobless and unemployable. This is unfortunately what can happen at present.

In sum, civilisation must come to the social media landscape where, at present, everybody can state whatever they want about everybody else without any need to prove or justifying anything they say.

I wonder if even a recommendation system such the famous Amazon's one and other algorithms based on forced inferences (totally correct from a technical and logical point of view) can be considered socially and legally acceptable eventually, because the more the digital economy develops the more we see how it deeply depends on trust and consistency of associations, now - so that even the slightly outdated or misrepresenting personal detail can be crucial (not to say how it is important in health and financial applications).

I am pretty confident that evolution and collective learning and wisdom will call for a greater degree of accuracy of associations - more than freedom of associations - so that no matter how intelligent is your algorithm, your machine has no right to recommend me anything I did not ask for nor to make any spare copy of my data accessible to third parties without my consent (other for heritage and forensic purposes that must be regulated by law).