Monday 18 March 2013

Big Brother Watch: Packing a big punch

Nick Pickles, Director of the Big Brother Watch organisation gave a very interesting presentation to members of the Data Protection Forum last week. There can be few groups that pack a larger punch than BBW, given their staff and budget. With a huge list of press contacts, and a capacity to respond to media enquiries within minutes, they’re always ready with a juicy quote to spice up a story.  

In 2012, Big Brother Watch appeared in the national press on more than 400 times, with nearly 300 national and regional broadcast appearances. They secured 6474 pieces of media coverage during the year in total, and registered 2 million hits on their website.

Nick made a number of points that make uncomfortable reading for the larger brands. Following a data breach, or a high profile run in with the ICO, the brand damage may not be immediately obvious – but it could prove to be extremely corrosive, over time. When managing an incident, consumer communications are critical. Once a business is seen as not being on the side of consumers, the damage may be irreversible.

All good sense as far as DPOs are concerned, but how do we get the message to the Board? Well, given the research that Nick presented, there are compelling business cases that demonstrate the damage done to brands once a celebrity or information rights organization has generated interest in a particular privacy issue.  

And, let’s hope  that the ICO’s current enforcement strategy will encourage more famous brands to realise the importance of high data protection standards before their deficiencies are on show for everyone to see.