Tag Archives: Responsibility

Showing ReSTRAINt In Outdoor Advertising

FX launched their new series THE STRAIN last night to solid critical response and viewer numbers. With a creative force behind the basic cable series of Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse, it certainly deserves a look.  Unfortunately, at least in Los Angeles and New York, that look was forced upon us in the guise of a disgusting worm coming out of an eyeball in large outdoor displays. As has been seen over numerous posts in this blog, outdoor advertising is something to be celebrated when used correctly, but I wish there had been some restraint with this campaign.


Beyond the unsettling nature of the image – and unsettling isn’t always a bad thing when trying to enter the cluttered fray of advertising – the placements were far too many when considering not everyone wants to see something graphic like this.  It hit home for me when my five year-old daughter started questioning why a worm would be coming out of an eyeball. While we’re able to control what our children see on TV and online, it’s not easy when driving around our neighborhoods. And, parents shouldn’t have to be concerned about where they drive to steer clear of disturbing advertising.

A blog entry on MoviePilot was published on the 30th of June stating that FX had called a mea-culpa and was going to take down the advertisements, but as of today (two weeks later) there hasn’t been a noticeable reduction in the outdoor impressions around Los Angeles. The reason probably had a bit to do with cost, but more so with the buzz that was being created and wanting to keep the awareness up until the series premiere. From a business perspective that could be well and good, but from a responsibility one, does it?

Certainly, advertising falls under freedom of speech and there shouldn’t be any censorship of what is displayed and what isn’t.  The problem is, if we as an industry don’t take responsibility or show restraint, others will come in and attempt to do it for us. If the trend keeps moving toward disturbing outdoor advertising and more parents start complaining about having to explain things to their kids before the time that it is reasonable to do so, there will be additional strains that curb creativity and revenue generation.


Google’s Gotta Give

In an instance that really makes your shake your head in wonderment or disgust, the BBC reported that Google finally removed a review claiming that a shopkeeper had fondled his 9 year-old child. The review in whole was not just about the fondling – but also an allegation that the customer was cheated on a hardware fix. The Review read:

“Robbed My RAM and Touched 9 Year Old What a scam artist, he stole RAM from my computer and replaced it with smaller chips hoping I wouldnt notice and also I later found out touched my 9 year old inappropriately. A Violator and a rogue trader. DO NOT DO TRADE WITH THIS MAN!”

The review was posted 18 months ago. Since then, the shopkeeper has been trying any which way he could to contact the reviewer to try to rectify the situation – to no avail – and he has also been asking Google to remove it since not being able to contact the less-than-ethical poster.  Toni Bennett, the unfortunately targeted shopkeeper maintains that he lost 80% of his business due to the post. 

It is sad that people would resort to making such a claim on review sites – even if the allegation were true, as there are other channels through which to settle claims.  But its even more unfathomable that Google would have hidden for so long behind their statement that “we’re not in a position to arbitrate disputes.”  It seemed that the damning part of the review was not about a dispute, but the intensely defamatory allegation of inappropriate touching.  Without a doubt, the person who posted the entry should have some responsibility, but Google should have stepped up and removed this offending review a long time ago.

Yes.  A thing of beauty about the internet, social media and the ability to post reviews with ease is beautiful until it is mis-used.  For Google to imply that business owners have the ability to counter or resolve any claim in the reviews only deals with part of the equation. Yet most business owners don’t know how to respond well to negative reviews – and those that do would be hard pressed to come up with a solid face-saving response to claims of pedophilia.

Reviews are an even larger part of Google’s business – with both the acquisition of Zagat and the introduction of more opportunities to post reviews in Places, Maps and more.  There’s got to be a better way to be able to respond to downright inflammatory reviews like the one referred to above. Sadly, there is no real responsibility placed on those reviewers who do not follow guidelines of honesty or ethics.  Real harm can be done to innocent and honest businesses if they were to come under fire from reviewers with malicious intent.  The sites, including Google, must take responsibility to enable quick resolution of these unfortunate postings.

With the ability for anonymous people to post questionable reviews that can really have an adverse effect on businesses, individuals and even the sites that allow those postings with no form of accountability, something’s gotta give.

The Hypocritical Conundrum of Media, Marketing and Youth

A mantra among social marketing mavens is Relevancy and Authenticity. The message does not mean a thing if it doesn’t use those elements – and perhaps a few more – to engage or connect with the members of the community.  But what if the community is being joined – rightfully or not – by the youth that might not be old enough to participate in the conversation? Is it OK to just figure media, marketing and messaging should be accessible to kids just because they have more access than ever before to the distribution points? And who is responsible for those viewers? A recently released study sponsored by Microsoft and a few universities point to the challenges of determining responsibility.

The focus of the study’s report was on parents’ involvement in allowing under-aged children to lie in order to get around Facebook’s ban of users under the age of 13.  The delineation of 13 is based on the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that was enacted in 1998.  COPPA sets regulations for commercial websites regarding serving information to users under the age of 13 and the collection of data.  Effectively, it requires the consent of parents for any child under the age of 13 with screening mechanisms in place.  At the time the US Act was passed, it is questionable whether anyone envisioned the type of information that would be collected in the future via sites like Facebook.  In the report, you can see the high level of parents who either knew their child was active on Facebook or even helped set up their account by lying about their age.

This could be a problem for companies if they knew that kids under age were using their sites without the proper precautions, but the fact that kids (and/or parents) are lying about it does remove some culpability from the owners of those sites.  It just brings the question of what is right and what controls should be in place when it comes to access for the youth of today.

There are certainly many outlets for children to access secure, relevant and authentic content.  Perhaps the content and interaction on those outlets are presented in a “social” way, but the fundamentals of social engagement seem better learned through real-life engagements. In the case of social media, is access best served to kids who have not even gotten the fundamentals of social behaviour crystalized? It would be easy to state that it should be up to the parents, if only the parents could really be held accountable.  As we know, parents are not always able to educate, guide or safeguard children in all instances – regardless of intent, concern or compassion. It is questionable whether parents (or the entire public for that matter) understand or recognize exactly how much private information can be gleaned from the internet quickly and easily, so to expect that they would govern their children’s online use based on that might be expecting too much.

The following passage from the report “Why Parents Help Their Children Lie to Facebook About Age” authored by Danah Boyd, Eszther Hargittai, Jason Schultz and John Palfrey relates to children under 13 accessing the Facebook site.

The bottom line, however, is that youth under 13 appear to be on Facebook in large numbers. And while Facebook takes steps to remove underage users, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated at a talk on education that Facebook only imposes the under–13 prohibition because of COPPA’s restrictions (Lev–Ram, 2011). He argued that younger children should be allowed to get on Facebook because doing so is an important part of the educational process. With regard to COPPA, Zuckerberg stated, “That will be a fight we take on at some point” (Lev–Ram, 2011).

There is a problem with just deciding something is good for children because it is “part of the educational process.”  Just as we wouldn’t let children walk about town at night alone to learn what happens outside of the home after dark, why would we do the same here? While there are absolutely huge differences in the examples, the core is the same – just because its educational, doesn’t mean its right.

We joke that the paperwork and security checks are more daunting in order to adopt a dog from the ASPCA than it is to have a baby of your own. Or, more to the point of this post, there is a more challenging test to see if we are fit to drive a car than there is to see if we are fit to raise a child – of course there is none for the latter.

That is what makes this entire concept of access for youth even harder to get our arms around.  Most parents would want to believe their children are mature enough and more ready for access to sites like Facebook. Yet they have no way of keeping tabs on the situation or even being sure what their children might come across – much less educate them on the granular details of what they can come across on social networking sites.  Will the “Birds and the Bees” conversation be evolving in the 21st century to cover social networking as well?

There is a balance between too much regulation or restriction and the access and opportunity to make our own choices that we fight for as a community.  Hence, we have a conundrum because we have to recognize that we still need to protect our children (and I believe there should be protection in place even for those between 13 and 18) while still providing all opportunities for them to safely experience things.

When COPPA was devised, it was meant to ensure that information was not gathered on children under 13 and a byproduct was that they would be able to interact with on those sites with age-relevant content.  Back then, the communication was much more heavily directed at the user – with much fewer opportunities for user-generated content to be a part or the core of the content mix.  As we all know, the playing field has shifted. Responsibility needs to be assumed by all, but with a heavy weight on the parents. 

For those 7 of 10 parents who opened a Facebook account for their under-age children, let’s hope that they take responsibility for the “educational process” and not blame it on the companies maintaining those training grounds.  As for the companies – specifically Facebook – if we are going to fight to ensure access and less regulation, let’s really focus on meaningful education of both parents and children on privacy and social participation to ensure that the best choices for individuals are truly being taken.

Surely, the convergence of Media, Marketing and Youth and the speed at which that is evolving leaves us fully engaged in an “educational process” that has no end.

Should Government Be Dictating Cybersecurity?

The involvement of government in private industry has been long debated and there are still no clear determinations of how deep is too deep.  We’ve seen many nations handle the internet and businesses differently with varying levels of openness and concern for the citizens. In the US, it certainly blurs the typical party lines when it comes to guidance/incentives/regulation of the nations’ businesses Cybersecurity.  How much should the government be doing to secure our digital infrastructure and how much should businesses be protecting themselves?

If the financial system is any barometer, businesses need to do a much better job of policing or securing themselves.  But when a strong bottom line now often times negates the protections for the futures, it is a huge concern about the future security of businesses, data and the data of their customers moving forward.

Too often, the IS teams are reactionary.  When there is an issue, the teams are built up and when things are calm, they are too easily downsized.  (The comparisons to the military are striking.)  But then when the government gets involved, it raises all sorts of mumbo-jumbo as seen in this Reuters post from last week.

Obviously, the breach of some systems could have a huge effect on the well-being of the country.  With more cloud services being offered, it is not just a matter of big businesses leasing a farm of insulated servers in some remote location.  It is a matter of multiple big businesses intertwined using the same services of the same cloud that could be so easily compromised without the security oversight that is needed and expected by customers.  I am all for cloud resources as they save time and are extremely effective, but the breaches over the past couple of years are concerning.  The voracity of the attempts to access databases and cause disruptions for fun or for truly malicious intent are rising and will continue to do so.  To a certain extent, if the enforcement agencies were not involved in ensuring the security systems, it would be like police officers being called upon to recover all of a company’s stolen goods when the company decided they weren’t going to install the alarm or pay their alarm bills because of down cash flow. 

I don’t know that the best solution will come from any Senator or Congressional office.  I also don’t know if security for all businesses would be any more effective if mandated by government agencies.  It really does come down to the businesses holding their responsibility to ensure safeguards against their business disruption.  Perhaps the government can insert themselves as advisor-partners when it comes to the larger service groups that touch upon many big businesses – like the Amazon Cloud.  Maybe Representative Mac Thornbury and his task force are correct in saying that there should be incentives te ensure that companies secure themselves, but isn’t that just another government handout to corporations? Senator Harry Reid’s office is working slowly on a Cybersecurity bill, but that’s taking too long – perhaps due to the stickiness of the whole thing.

Ultimately, there is no simple answer.  In the best of all possible worlds, the businesses would be responsible to secure themselves and there would never be any breaches or threats.  But we don’t live in that world and it might be that government is muddying things up further by systematically removing any sense of responsibility many businesses have to their customers or each other. 

[UPDATE] This afternoon on PRI’s THE WORLD, Marco Werman interviewed Misha Glenny regarding Cybercrime and his new book, DarkMarket: Cyberthieves, Cypercops and You. In the interview they discuss cybercrime, the diversity of the characters and what motivates them.  While our original post was focused more on the annoyances for companies and customers due to breaches in security, this discussion delves into the downright worrisome in regard to the recent breach of Citigroup’s database – where they lost 200,000 account details – and the scary relating to the fact that the drone aircraft controlled from within the US now have viruses.  Those viruses are not doing anything right now, but they cannot get rid of them. If they were to do what other viruses do and take control of the drones, who knows what can happen.  In this case, the government should be fully involved.  Don’t you think?