Axios reported on a poll conducted within 24 hours after the Facebook testimony on Capitol Hill earlier this month. The poll, by HarrisX, found that “Americans have finally started to lose faith in tech companies’ ability to protect their information.”
- An overwhelming majority, 83%, believe that “we need tougher regulations and penalties for breaches of data privacy.”
- 58% believe that federal action is inevitable.
- 38% believe the federal government “isn’t capable of regulating tech companies.”
This is a dangerous mix for the technology industry: Constituents expecting action from a government unprepared to deliver the right results.
The young electorate is beginning to lose faith in the same platforms that have ignited an unprecedentedly active citizen voice.
- According to the 35th annual Harvard institute of Politics Poll on young Americans’ attitude towards politics conducted in March, young voters do not trust companies to do the right thing. While some did better than others, the companies named in the survey, in alphabetical order, Amazon, Google, Uber, Facebook, Twitter, did not break 50 percent.
The ghost of the 2016 elections continues to haunt the Capitol, the White House, Silicon Valley and the voters.
- “We now know that Russian agents used Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, even Pinterest (I still am trying to figure that one out) … to place targeted attack ads and negative stories.” Hillary Clinton, April 22, 2018, speaking at the Pen World Voices Festival, as reported by Axios.
Planning for the Inevitable
Powerful technology companies that have access to consumers’ most private data have begun to see the need to pay more attention to Washington. But those in Silicon Valley and beyond can no longer afford to keep Congress and the Administration at arms-length. Engagement should not be a choice; it must be a priority. The right type of engagement matters.
In recent years, Congress has been willing to examine serious matters dealing with privacy, data breaches, personal information sharing — complicated issues that are rarely examined or fully understood in Congress. It is unfortunate the first time many of our elected officials tackled these issues in a major public way was during some very consequential hearings. Privacy and the role Congress and the agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, will play to ensure that the American people’s rights are protected will only grow with the next breaking news alert.
Scrambling to explain to Congress and the American people that whatever the latest breach or privacy invasion will never happen again, is not the forward-facing message that enhances tech’s brand. Building brand loyalty in Congress, media, and with consumers must begin from a position of strength.
Disruptors thrive on uncertainty. Whether they are launching the next startup, or leading the effort on breakthrough technology, risk-takers prepare for the future. The question that is often overlooked is what role will Washington play in the success of or failure of their venture?
Helping to eliminate or limit undue risk is a wise business decision. Telling your story early, and often, to those in Washington is a smart investment that helps prepare you for the unpredictable and uncertain.