Are Companies Doing Enough to Protect Your Information?

Ever since the Digital Revolution began during the mid 1900s, technology has rapidly expanded at a near unforeseeable rate. Computers 50 years ago were big enough to fill entire rooms, yet today would have similar computing power to an old iPhone. To put this in perspective, the four computers used to bring the NASA astronauts to the moon for the first time in 1969 are not as powerful as your everyday pocket calculator or even a basic USB flash drive. This was predicted in 1965 by Gordon Moore, who said that the number of transistors that can fit on integrated circuits will double about every two years. This means every two years, microprocessors are shrinking nearly in half, allowing for a large amount of computing power into a small device like an iPhone. Because of this principle, technology has been able to expand and develop at an exponential rate, allowing for everyday people to have access to the internet and computing abilities through personal laptops and smartphones.

As of June 2018, 55.1% of the world population were internet users. This amounts to over 4.2 billion people, and that number is expected to increase quickly. With this many people accessing the internet, a massive amount of data is created and stored online. This occurs when someone signs up for an account with an online retailer, social media platform, entertainment website, and most other web addresses. Furthermore, data can be created and stored internally on a specific computer often demonstrated when someone creates and saves documents on his or her computer. Additionally, businesses often have software programs that generate and store data internally along with data on each transaction and customer in the system. Data is being created at a rapid rate, with approximately 90% of the world’s data being made in the past two years. .Although data collection has made large advancements over the years, security measures have not evolved in correspondence with this trend.

Since 2013, over 13 billion data records have been lost or stolen. This is enough for nearly every person on Earth to have their data taken twice! The information taken can be used for identity theft, with social security numbers, emails, phone numbers, addresses and credit card numbers commonly being targeted. Because of this, data security should be of the utmost importance to people when utilizing the internet. Nevertheless, this is often one of the last things on someone’s mind as he or she browses online. Data storage and security is the responsibility of the business that keeps the information. For example, Facebook has the responsibility of safely storing all information about each of its users. This includes all email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, relationships with other users, and other information. If Facebook or other tech firms fails to do this, users may be subject to identity theft among other issues.

Although data breaches have been increasing each year, security measures have not developed to match this growth. A few reasons come to mind for this. First, data security is often considered a discretionary cost to businesses. This means that a business will spend money on security measures only if the funds are available after all operating and required costs have been paid. A change needs to be made in the minds of business owners that data security is of utmost importance. The average cost of a data breach is $3.9 million dollars according to a study from IBM, yet this number can greatly increase depending on the severity. Facebook’s recent breach could cost them over $1.6 billion in fines just from European regulators alone. Marriott is a prime example of a company that failed to keep its customers’ information safe as approximately 500 million people may have had their data taken illegally in one of the largests breaches in history. As more information was discovered on the severity of the breach, Marriott’s stock price plummeted to $100.99 on December 24, a 17% decline in share price since the news of the breach broke at the end of November. With countless other costly examples seen in the news (Uber, Equifax, Yahoo, Quora, etc.) it should be evident to businesses that it is more economical to invest in data security than suffer the consequences of a data breach.

If businesses fail to invest in customer data security, then government regulations may be created to increase this involvement. In September of 2018, Congress held a hearing on data privacy and security at top tech organizations. Executives from Facebook and Twitter attended while Google declined the invitation. This congressional hearing displays that the American government is not afraid to regulate the tech industry, and these new rules may be coming sooner than some businesses anticipate. By investing in data security soon, companies can protect their customers, prevent negative effects that come with data breaches, and jumpstart the process of changing how tech companies approach online security. Hopefully in 2019 companies will begin to realize the importance of data security and take steps towards implementing new measures to protect it. And if companies fail to do this, then the government should begin to take action through new laws and regulations.

Nike Demonstrates Social Consciousness in Latest Ad Campaign

Nike has long been one of the most recognizable American companies and is currently the most valuable sports brand in the world. The firm has cemented its market share through innovative advertising campaigns and partnerships with professional athletes. Nike has produced Michael Jordan’s iconic Air Jordan line since 1984, catapulting the company to success and other prominent signings like Lebron James, Tiger Woods, and Serena Williams. These partnerships with star athletes across various sports have become the cornerstone for their continuous success in the sportswear market.

Additionally, Nike has employed various advertising campaigns throughout its history. Nike’s best campaign, and one of the more successful advertising plans of the last 30 years, is the “Just Do It” slogan. The motto was coined in 1988 and by 1998 Nike had already increased its market share in the athletic shoes industry from 18% to 43%.The campaign is still in use today because of its effectiveness, and the 30thanniversary is being celebrated this year. With this anniversary, Nike has decided to bet the farm this year with a campaign that has already sparked mass outrage and public unapproved. Nike has signed another professional athlete to star in the latest edition of the “Just Do It” campaign, yet this person has been the center of controversy for nearly two years.

He is Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who has not played a professional game since he began protesting the oppression of African-Americans by kneeling during the singing of the national anthem. His protests have long been one of the most controversial stories in all of sports and in the United States. The issue is one of the most polarizing, with many taking sides on whether it is right to not stand for our country’s national anthem. President Trump and many others have disapproved of Kaepernick’s protest, saying that it shows disrespect to cops and soldiers that serve our country by putting their lives on the line for the flag and freedom. However, Kaepernick has inspired plenty of his peers, as numerous athletes across multiple sports have knelt in protest during the anthem at their matches. Kaepernick was never signed to a team after the 2016 season, which he argues is collusion between the NFL owners, yet plenty of other NFL players continued his protests in lieu of his absence. The television ratings for the NFL subsequently dropped, causing President Trump and others to call for the NFL to put an end to the protests.

Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem before a San Francisco 49ers game.

Despite the declining ratings, protests did not stop. Colin Kaepernick is still without a job, but his activism has not stopped. He is still a leading force of change and a public figure many people admire or hate. He is one of the most polarizing people of today. And he is now the face of Nike’s latest “Just Do It” anniversary campaign. With so much controversy and public outrage towards him, why would Nike make this move? Two main components come to mind: the globalization of Nike and an emotional appeal.

           Nike was created in the United States, but the company operates on a global scale. Although North America is the largest purchaser of Nike products, the rest of the world still accounts for over half of all revenue for Nike. Despite the NFL’s efforts in recent years to expand the sport outside of the United States, football is not a popular worldwide sport. NFL athletes are not as well recognized compared to soccer and cricket stars on the international stage. Because of this, Colin Kaepernick’s lack of professional athletic employment does not matter as much as it would to NFL fans in the United States who would much rather have great players star in the campaign, like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. Despite the opportunities to partner with more skilled players, Nike strategically chose to work with Kaepernick because of his protests and high-profile. Outside of the United States, Colin Kaepernick is seen as an athlete using his platform to promote positive change. He is a champion for civil rights and the fair treatment of people of color. People across the seas often perceive the US to be very racist, and for logical reasons. Seeing Nike choose a person of color fighting for a just cause as the lead for their “Just Do It” campaign might sway those outside of the US to purchase Nike over competitors like Adidas and Reebok. Additionally, there are plenty of people in the United States who also agree with Colin Kaepernick’s stance and would support Nike.

Nike’s online sales have increased 31% since the release of their new advertisements.

The company appealed to the emotional side of consumers with this choice. During the first ad released for the campaign, Kaepernick states “Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” The video urges the viewer to act on their dreams while showcasing athletes with disabilities playing their sport of choice. “Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy,” Kaepernick says, “ask if they’re crazy enough.” The ad is filled with emotional appeals to the viewer. Nike is succeeding in creating an association in the consumer’s mind that they are a socially conscious company. The slogan “Just Do It” is being directed towards the viewer’s dreams to make them have an emotional response to the advertisement. For such a drastic decision, Nike clearly demonstrated a well thought out and strategic plan in regards to the 30th anniversary campaign for the motto.  

In the week since the announcement, plenty has happened in regards to this campaign. Iconic Nike swooshes have been cut from socks, the President tweeted, Nike’s stock drastically dropped with the news, and online sales increased by 31%, causing to the stock price to rise back up to only ten cents below its price right before the announcement. It has been a rollercoaster of a week for the company, but it must have planned for this. Nike is the leader in its industry and would not have made such a polarizing political stance unless it knew the decision would pay off. The company recognized its global scale and decided to risk using Colin Kaepernick in order to benefit from the emotional appeal he would provide for many consumers. With this move, it will be interesting to see what the company does down the line in regards to political stances, and what its competitors will do in response.

Facebook Cambridge Analytica Scandal

Facebook has recently been under fire for its handling of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It can be difficult to understand and follow all of the events that took place. To start, in 2015 Global Science Research, a company owned by Aleksandr Kogan, harvested the data of 270,000 users who willingly sold their information to the company through the app “thisisyourdigitallife.” This was done in a legal manner and in line with all government regulations because the users voluntarily sold their data. However, the app also unknowingly harvested the data of the friends of these users. This is also compliant with Facebook’s policy, as the data of friends can be mined for use by app developers and academics. The data was then sold to Cambridge Analytica, which is a violation of Facebook’s policy on data mining. Christopher Wylie, a co-founder of Cambridge Analytica, blew the whistle on the events which led to national coverage of the issue. On March 16 of 2018, Facebook recognized the situation and suspended Cambridge Analytica from the website for selling the data to a third party. The tech firm reaffirmed that this was not a data breach as the users who downloaded “thisisyourdigitallife” voluntarily consented to having their data mined; the data of their friends should not have been sold to Cambridge Analytica. A day later, Cambridge Analytica issued a statement saying that it deleted all of the data it had received from Global Science Research after learning that it was not obtained in compliance with Facebook’s data privacy policies. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has since issued apologies in newspaper advertisements, stating that this was a “breach of trust,” and has agreed to testify before Congress about the matter on April 11.

Since Christopher Wylie blew the whistle on the scandal, Facebook has been rapidly losing value. The share price has dropped from $185.90 to as low as $152.22 as the news broke on March 16. This 18% decline in share price has caused Facebook to lose $80 billion in value, and Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth has also declined by $14 billion. With new facts about the scandal being uncovered every day, Facebook’s stock could face a major decline in the coming weeks. Mark Zuckerberg plans to have his Congressional hearing in April; he will hopefully be able to reassure users, investors, and the government that Facebook is capable of safely guarding the information of its users if he wishes to avoid further decline in share price or lawsuits.

Facebook and all tech companies need to make it their number one priority to safely secure the information of its users and customers. It is their duty to ensure that our information will not be sold without our consent. Hopefully the steep decline in Facebook’s share price will result in a wake-up call for the tech firm to increase its data and information security. Data privacy has been a hot-button issue lately with recent data breaches at Uber and Equifax receiving a high amount of national attention. After Equifax’s breach of data in September of 2017, the share price dropped dramatically, from $142.72 to $92.98 in the matter of 8 days after the news broke, leading to the company losing over $5 billion in value. This breach caused Equifax to lose nearly one third of its value all because the company failed to protect the information of its customers. Facebook stands out amongst these, as the information sold to Cambridge Analytica was used to create and target specific political advertisements for then candidate Donald Trump. Regardless, Facebook and all tech firms need to improve their policies and procedures when it comes to data privacy to avoid losing billions in value after data breaches.

Facebook did not take the necessary steps to ensure that all data being collected was done in compliance with its data privacy policies. Although Cambridge Analytica was the one to actually break the rules by purchasing the illegally obtained data, Facebook did not do enough to monitor the situation. After the data was collected, Facebook failed to track where it was used, causing the sale of the data to Cambridge Analytica to go right over Facebook’s head. Facebook, and all tech companies that retain customer data, must ensure that all data is properly collected and sold to those who rightfully can use it. Facebook’s data privacy policy is merely text on a page when the company fails to enforce its own guidelines. If Facebook wishes to avoid this issue again, and if it would like to set a precedent for the tech industry, then the company should begin monitoring the supply chain of data taken from its users. Currently, the social media platform has “strict confidentiality obligations” to which vendors and service providers must comply. Facebook does not list what these strict rules are, but the company clearly failed its users by not ensuring that Global Science Research and Cambridge Analytica were in compliance with these obligations. Tech firms need to begin tracking the stream of data and ensuring that all data is being properly collected and sold by legal means. Tech firms have seen many examples of the devastation that a data breach can do to a company’s value, and all should take Facebook’s latest mishap as a final warning to increase their security for data collection.