Prism will alter attitudes towards data, warns Sorrell

CANNES, FRANCE: The Prism scandal, in which the UK and US governments have been found to be "legally compelling collection" of information from internet giants Google and Facebook, will change perceptions on privacy, warned WPP CEO Martin Sorrell.

CANNES, FRANCE: The Prism scandal, in which the UK and US governments have been found to be "legally compelling collection" of information from internet giants Google and Facebook, will change perceptions on privacy, warned WPP CEO Martin Sorrell.

Speaking to Campaign days after The Guardian's revelation that the top secret eavesdropping program was providing the NSA with direct access to the data captured by Silicon Valley's largest companies, Sorrell believes it is likely to make a difference in consumer behavior.

Emphasizing the shift in public perception around acceptable practices on personal data, Sorrell said: “I saw one of the commissioners at the G8 meeting on Saturday, and we were talking about the fact that we went to see them two, three years ago to argue on behalf of the [Internet Advertising Bureau] that [data collection] should be opt-out – that's long since gone.”

“Consumers will probably only accept opt-in, but then they have to get an opt-in that is simple, not 16 pages of long-form legalese that takes you a month to get lawyers to look at, and costs a lot of money to do so,” he explained. “We have to find a way of consumers understanding what they're letting themselves in for very simply…They are going to get more concerned, and Prism probably makes them more concerned. I'm more concerned."

When the chief executive of WPP, the world's largest marketing communications group, which is propelled by data and insights via its centralized Data Alliance, was asked if he had any idea such data requests from governments were being made, he said, “none at all.”

“I'm meant to know a little bit about these things, and I was surprised that the US government and the UK government were using data in that way,” he added. “It took the UK government a few days to admit that they were using or being supplied with that data…Did I think they were subpoenaing Facebook and Google? No.”

Far from the more commonly held view that the sharing of personal information is not a huge concern for Generation Y – the term used to identify those who have grown up with the Internet and social networking – Sorrell believes the Prism scandal is set to have reverberations across the board.

"I think it's going to alter the attitude of younger people, too,” he said. “This sort of event, which I think would affect more under-35-year-olds than over-35-year-olds – who I think will be more sanguine about this sort of activity.”

This story originally appeared on the website of Campaign, the sister outlet of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.

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