Ain’t no party like a cryptoparty: IAB Future Trends Report

Image credit: kencf0618 Image credit: kencf0618

This post first appeared in the IAB’s Future Trends Report on big data. This is an abridged version – to read the the whole thing, download the report.

Last month I attended my first Cryptoparty, where a nice man called Chris quickly taught me how to encrypt my email, web browsing and instant messaging. While he was doing that,  I saw a warning from the near future for brands.

The early Noughties saw a steady increase in the amount of information about ourselves online. That increase may now be tapering off, in the wake of the Snowden revelations of mass surveillance by the US and its allies, along with the clumsy efforts of governments and corporations to take advantage of the big data bonanza to peer into the lives of citizens and consumers.

Marketers have been lazy and clumsy in their use of customer data to date. Even floating the idea for this article met with indifference and denial from some peers – consumers couldn’t give a fig about privacy, is the gist of some individuals’ feelings on the matter.

Things move fast on the web, however, and soon enough Martin Sorrell was telling Ad Week Europe that the Snowden scandal was going to hit brands harder than they thought and that “people are underestimating its significance among consumers.”

At the Cryptoparty, I learned that there are a mass of apps and services you can use securely, but as soon as I try them a big downside becomes clear. They are slow, clunky and lack the features of free services like those from Google, Microsoft and Apple, for instance.

Where I see a frustrating user experience, though, I’m sure others will see a massive market opportunity. Just as Google gave people search that worked in the late 90s, you can be sure that today someone – probably several people – is working on a way to give people web mail, browsing and search that will work but won’t give away their personal data.

That would mean that brands are one hot start-up away from their consumers becoming invisible online.

What can brands do to avoid the fate of consumers pulling up the data drawbridges and shutting the doors on valuable interactions and touch-points with them online?

Last word to Sir Martin:

“We want to be more respectful of privacy and also want to monetise our audiences our way. Being more focused on privacy is not bad for business, it can be good.”