Big Data

What to Do When A Potential Employer Asks for Your Facebook Password / Can Employers Legally Ask You for Your Facebook Password When You Apply for a Job?

I was a little shocked to learn that potential employers were asking those they interviewed for their Facebook password. I don’t have anything damaging on my Facebook, but that’s a severe invasion of privacy and if I was asked that from the get-go, I wouldn’t continue interviewing with the company. If they are going to be that protective over Facebook, then I’m sure it wouldn’t be a working environment that would be conducive to productivity. I would think that most HR professionals themselves would feel incredibly uncomfortable asking for a Facebook professional and most large companies would be worried about a lawsuit, so this would be something done primarily by smaller businesses who perhaps have been burned by PR mishaps in the past.

The interesting thing about the Justia article is that there are already many laws in place to protect people against discrimination when hiring. By asking for that much private information, companies risk being sued for making decisions based on any information on that page. This goes along the same lines as there are certain questions you don’t answer in an interview process. For example, if a prospective employer asks a pregnant woman for their Facebook password and as a result finds out they are pregnant, the person being interviewed now has reasonable means to sue. From a business perspective, this has far more risk than it does reward in avoiding hiring certain people. To go further on that point, even if employers can see a public Facebook profile, they could base hiring decisions based on that information and if they reveal they have looked at a Facebook profile in any part of the hiring process, it could also lead to a lawsuit. From a legal/non-legal perspective, it’s actually not a huge concern of mine because I do think this sort of issue will take care of itself in the court of public opinion. Things hit the internet so quickly now that once employers are called out for asking that kind of private information, I’d expect less qualified applicants to apply for that company and company sales to ultimately decrease in reaction.

Designing the Personal Data Stream: Enabling Participatory Privacy in Mobile Personal Sensing

While I do think it makes sense to expand the Codes of Fair Information Practice, I think it will be very hard to stunt something that has arguably already grown too large to be stopped. There’s already a certain level of expectation by people since 9/11 that privacy will take a back seat to security and this can’t be clearer than the recent NSA revelations. The lack of overall outrage by the public shows that the expectation or privacy or protection of their data is no longer expected. In an academic lens, there may be a good system to protect privacy, but that becomes difficult when the public is not pining for something that could be potentially costly to large companies like Google and Facebook. It’s highly unfortunate to those that strongly care about their privacy, but for those that do, it’s likely they aren’t pushing that much information out there to begin with. I believe people should have a certain level of control in this new data reality, but logistically it will prove to be incredibly difficult.

Instagram can now sell your photos for ads

While Instagram may have been given the power to sell your photos for ads at one point by their own policies, it sounds like that was not the direct intention as it would be detrimental to building up their user base. Instead it sounds like the intention would be for a company to have the ability to promote a picture that highlights one of their pictures. In this case, that should not be a very controversial item as the picture was put out there to the public in the first place. In the end, if you are posting your information to the public you cannot expect it to be fully private and not used for commercial purposes. The line is drawn when someone has posted things for private consumption or if they were very specific on how they wanted their data to be handled. Companies like Facebook and Instagram are providing a top notch service for “free,” so there has to be a way for them to earn revenue or it will prove to be an unsuccessful business model.


Heart Gadgets Test Privacy-Law Limits

Heart gadgets are an interestingly tough item to handle when looking at privacy laws. While patients are the ones who are being studied, since they are not the actual patient, this provides the medical device companies the cover to avoid a costly process to receive their own data. The work of the heart gadget companies though scream of a potential HIPAA violation, but it isn’t due to the law being severely outdated. People should in fact have the ability to review their own files as the device acts as a depository for medical records in my opinion. The use of the quantitative data by the medical device company isn’t a huge concern since it does not include their personal information and other companies track quantitative data in a similar manner. For example, Facebook will track how many members they have and the actions they take on the network, but will not identify people individually. The big concern is the impact it could have on individuals if the information from the devices is given to insurance companies, which could impede their liberties. I would also think that Medtronic would have a greater concern in making sure that people are able to see their own information. If someone dies because their health insurance runs out and Medtronic refused to provide them with their own health information, they could be held liable as a result. The complacency on the issue seems to be a mistake on their part.



1. How would you react if an employer asked for your Facebook password and do you know of any companies who do this?

2. How do you feel about Medtronic’s attitude towards the concerns brought up by the Wall Street Journal article?


Information Aggregators/Data Collection

From Information to Audiences: The Emerging Marketing Data Use Cases

When discussing the power of first-party and third-party data, I couldn’t help but think about the efforts the Obama campaign used to transform data into usable scores that could be extrapolated to the rest of voters. By knowing past purchase (or voting) history, demographic background, and other information, companies can segment potential customers and target them accordingly. This segmentation can lead to choices between showing advertisements on channels like Lifetime vs. MTV, showing them in the morning or at night, and showing them in Gainesville or Tampa. I also found the use of different databases and silos quite interesting. This is a very similar situation to issues political campaigns run into. Voter data, donor lists, and other information have traditional been stored in different areas, instead of in a central CRM. As the whitepaper explains, this is common with marketing departments too, and I can definitely agree. Marketing and Sales could benefit from the information derived from tools like the Vocus Public Relations Suite and I’m sure there’s information the Sales department holds that other departments would benefit from. I can understand the privacy concerns that some hold, but I don’t see any of the data being derived to target personal conversations or relationships. Most are being targeted from a standpoint of someone being simply a set of numbers in a system to sell a product. Far more concerning is the relationships between the NSA and large corporations like AT&T. There’s still a lot of potential in the collection of data too. In politics, tracking past history is easy as you can simply import past voter history typically attached to a State Board of Election’s file. In sales and marketing though, much of this data is still very new. What leads to a repeat customer and what product will they want next? The data behind these answers is still very new and has room to mature.



1. Do you see any types of data that could lead to another evolution of big data marketing techniques? What types of data are still so new that they need to mature more before seeing their full impact?

2. I spoke about the relation of politics and big data, what other areas have been impacted by big data?


Message Testing

Developing media interventions to reduce household sugar-sweetened beverage consumption

Sugar-sweetened beverages have been identified as a potential key problem by nutritionists. Overweight and obesity is prevalent in the United States, so efforts are being taken to reduce the potential causes of the conditions. In 2010, Philadelphia received funding from the Centers for Disease control and conducted the Philadelphia Healthy Lifestyle Initiative or PHLI. The goal of PHLI was to produce a media campaign that was properly targeted at Philadelphia’s population to reduce family consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages. By conducting surveys, creating a demographic framework, and getting an idea of pre-campaign consumption, it gave those conducting the survey a data driven basis of attack. Through their survey results, they identified that intention to eliminate consumption was based on attitudes and as a result, four potential media messages were developed to target behavior change among low-income female caregivers. As a result of their testing, it was found that the weight gain due to beverage belief was received very well by the caregivers, while the doing something good for the family was not. The one issue I had with this survey and surveys like it though are they do not test whether the study itself was effective in reducing obesity. It ignored the real ramification that sugary drinks are substantially cheaper than tasty “healthy” drinks and do not provide significant alternatives. They may believe that sugary drinks could have an impact on weight gain, but now that they hold these beliefs, has the purchases of sugary drinks come down and if so, has that had a real impact on childhood obesity rates? The reason campaigns like those for anti-smoking worked so well is not only did they alter beliefs, but they changed actual actions by citizens. While the study tested intentions, they did not back up the intentions with any sort of study to see if even short-term purchases had changed from the subjects. When lives get busy and they are no longer part of the test cases, people tend to revert to old habits and there is a hole in the study until this follow-up is completed.


Online consumer behavior: Comparing Canadian and Chinese Web Visitors

The influence of a more capitalistic/individualistic society vs. a collectivist society is quite interesting. The study comparing Canadian and Chinese web visitors highlights this fact. Canadian visitors are more pleasure driven and rely on high task relevant cues to form site attitudes. Chinese visitors use low task relevant cues and dominance is the key type of emotions as they focus on long-term alliances and causal reasoning. As this study acknowledges, it had a lot of moving parts. Most respondents were students and they were far more familiar with the internet than most. Also, the “Chinese” students were not surveyed in mainland China, but were rather students in Canada that were of Chinese descent. I don’t think that takes away from this study though. It’s obvious that cultural differences impact buying decisions and if anything this study highlights the potential to interview customers in their home country to highlight emotions impacting buying decisions. How do Russians differ from Americans? How do older citizens from former communist countries differ from younger ones? With companies becoming more globalized, these sort of studies could have large ramifications on the bottom line of large companies in the future. Car companies are at the forefront of analyzing buying decisions based on cultural background as seen here by Automotive Digest. This sort of tracking of web visitors isn’t that much different from the efforts we made in our other classes as web developers. We created different layouts for desktop, tablet, and mobile to adjust for the preferences of the reader. Looking at the attitudes of different cultures is simply an extension of the “bring the information to the audience in the format they want.”



1. What challenges do you think Canadian web developers face compared to U.S. and how do you think they deal with them?

2. What weaknesses do you see in the PHLI study and how do you think they could have been addressed?

3. Have you personally done any targeted messaging and how effective did it prove to be?


Eye and Click Tracking

The Poynter Institute – Previous Studies

I’m not completely surprised by the article that text has become more popular as the first item that people look at. Just using ESPN as an example, sure there are pictures to highlight stories, but most headlines on the right hand side are just text. As a result of this setup by most websites, most people have switched to looking at text and headlines first before pictures. With newspapers, usually the headlines were always accompanied by pictures, which encourages people to look at the pictures. The way content is being presented now goes hand-in-hand with the changing tendencies of readers.

The Poynter Institute – Tablets

The one interesting thing I noted about this study is that they did not include 7-8″ tablets. By only including 9.7″ iPads, I think they made a significant blunder since people with those tablets use them quite differently. I think the instinct to swipe horizontally reminds, but I don’t think people with smaller tablets use them in horizontal mode as commonly. I also think the flipboard style prototype would be more popular with smaller screens as the carousel cannot provide as much information and it will be squished by comparison to the larger iPad.

Eye-Tracking Technology

This article was written a little while ago, which obviously didn’t take into account inventions like the Microsoft Kinect . I think eye tracking technology will become even more prevalent over the coming years.  Another good look at the potential future of eye-tracking is the movie The Minority Report. Although many people would argue about privacy issues, the way things have been changing recently, it may not be that far-fetched to see eye scanners in public locations for marketing or homeland security purposes.


Google Places Whitepaper

With the map taking up such a large portion of the Google Places/Google+ Local, it’s no surprise that it was looked at quite a bit. It also wasn’t surprising that the first listing and those listed more than once as registering highly on the heat map. I did find the need for social signals interesting in the listings though. That’s not something I would have guessed from the beginning.



1. Do you agree with my assertions relating to small tablets? Also, what other contributing factors do you think they may have missed in the article?

2. Do you think privacy concerns or the almighty dollar will win out in the expansion of eye tracking technology?



Wired – The Rise of Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing has dramatically disrupted many industries and has become the new pool of cheap labor. One such example mentioned in the article was of freelance photographer Mark Harmel. Mark had to do far more work in 2006 than he did in 2004. With the creation of iStockphoto and other stock photo companies, his work has been marginalized as there’s a greater supply of people who can do similar work to him for less money. At the same time, there’s a lot of opportunity too as seen by the “packager.” Wired focuses on MTV using Youtube videos, but I think recently companies like Netflix and Spotify have shown the value of packaging entertainment into a cheaper subscription style service. All companies have reacted to the internet by packaging their services together to create something that isn’t easily duplicated by free means. Some companies though need to be careful with packaging though if it becomes more of a hindrance than making their lives easier. The beauty of companies like Netflix and even Amazon is they allow a greater flow of information and create a greater free market. Crowdsourcing through the internet in reality is opening up the potential supply of ideas and products, which will increase competition. Most recently, Microsoft has used crowd sourcing to find bugs in their software. Paying out a $100k bounty is a lot cheaper than having to pay millions to acqui-hire top talent from start-ups. Instead, they can solve their problems at a set cost without long term commitment.


IBM – Jamming for a smarter planet: Insights and ideas from nearly 2,000 students and faculty worldwide

IBM used to a “jam” to create new ideas through crowdsourcing. A jam is most simply an internet based platform for conducting conversations through brainstorming. The jam was used to identify potential areas of improvement in education, environment, energy, healthcare, and urban policy. The jam mostly involved students, but faculty, administrators, and government officials also were involved. I found the study interesting, but also somewhat biased. Obviously students will blame the universities for not preparing them for the workforce, but the truth is that many people need to learn on the job itself. The only thing universities could have done differently is require more internships, which surely would have also gotten negative feedback from students too. This is similar to a discussion I had with a colleague recently. Should universities be teaching more theory or practical skills? I think students are focusing on the lack of practical skills instead of focusing on the applicability of the theories they did learn to various jobs. I learned in the last year that what I learned in my Political Science degree was quite applicable to Marketing, Sales, and a whole other host of fields. I think with the weighting being so severely toward student participation that their views might be different after a few years in the workforce. I think the IBM study is good in the way it creates ideas, but bad in that it shows the potential for skewed results considering such a large percentage were students and not adults who have experienced the impact of their education.


Measuring Public Relations Wikipedia Engagement: How Bright is the Rule?

I was surprised to learn of the strict restrictions on PR professionals by Wikipedia. You would think they would want accurate information on the pages, especially since in reality anyone can manipulate what goes on the site anyway. As outlined in the study too, people can simply lie about who they are or hire a 3rd party to submit their edits anyway. I agree with the study that concludes that the “bright line” rule, where PR professionals cannot edit articles about their clients is highly flawed. I think that submissions need to be vetted just like any other, but the information they provide could be highly valuable and could correct outdated information. When 60% of respondents in the survey indicate that their company or a recent client’s Wikipedia article has factual errors, that is a significant problem especially when considering Wikipedia is one of the most widely used sources by the public. I personally cannot understand the positive value of the rule in this day, but this article attempts to explain the current value of the rule.



1. How do you use crowdsourcing to make your life easier?

2. How do you think the survey outcomes would have been different if more career services professionals were included as part of the jam?

3. Do you agree with the bright-line rule? If not, what changes would you make to it?


Reputation Management and Environmental Scanning

Data Points: Social Faux Pas

I found it shocking that most companies still are not prepared for a social media-based customer service threat. Many people now turn to Twitter to express their frustrations with a brand and it’s important for a brand to address those frustrations to avoid the potential bad PR. One example of potential PR problems with an out of touch brand is what Bank of America experienced. I also found it interesting how those of all ages email their colleagues or use third-party sites to complain at a similar rate, but the big difference is that young people like to use social media to vent while older people prefer the telephone. With social media being so uncontrollable while it’s easy for information to go viral, it’s interesting that corporate communications departments are still behind the times.


Amplifying your social echo

PRNewswire discusses the “social echo” and how to amplify it. They are actually one of the competitors to my company Vocus, so I was very familiar with the social media metrics tools that they discussed. By listening on social media, marketing departments can drive new inbound leads and public relations departments can monitor sentiment to ensure that their brand is not associated in a negative manner. By listening instead of only trying to start conversations, companies can generate greater engagement and interest from their stakeholders.


Online Reputation Systems: How to Design One That Does What You Need

Reputation systems are so important as they create legitimacy behind a company. I think out of all the items the article mentioned, credibility is one area that was not highlighted enough. Reputation systems, particularly Amazon’s, create credibility behind a large swath of items that are not typically sold in stores. This helps Amazon stand out since they sell many items that could be sold through “As Seen on TV” means. eBay has this problem as they have many shady sellers who do not provide what they say they will or they mislead buyers in other ways.


Drowned out? Rethinking Corporate Reputation Management for the Internet

As Bunting and Lipski explain, the internet is just a new median. It does not destroy all the theories behind corporate reputation management, just tweaks them slightly. The authors argued that there are more uncontrollable resources where people receive their information, but this is the same Marketing vs. PR theory that has raged on for years. PR has always been somewhat uncontrollable. The difference between old and new though is the amount of engagement and how communications has become much more social. The “meet them where they are” theory though had been used before and now with the advent of the internet, it’s been adapted. Overall, I don’t believe that the entire system has been changed, but the general communications theories have been tweaked over time.



What reputation management systems have you been impressed with and why? Aside from Amazon and eBay, are there any well known ones that you frequent pretty consistently and why?

Do you think any communications theories have been debunked due to the internet?

Do you think the internet has been good or bad for companies corporate communications departments?