25 episodes, and more than 2.5 years – plus ça change …

It’s our Silver Jubilee – 25 times SmallDataForum, and so much has happened since our first episode less than a fortnight before the EU Referendum. And yet here we are, Brexit still front and center and no one’s none the wiser.

When we started, our aim was to reflect on communicators’ needs

  • to increase the value of data,
  • to understand data and its insights to inform better business decisions,
  • to manage data from machines (data processing) and humans (turning Big Data into small, relevant, business-critical insight).

Little did we foresee how much our chosen field would be dominated by the narrative of Western democracy and society being undermined by the powers unleashed by social and digital media.

Yet here we are, with Neville discussing GDPR as the modern equivalent of the Feds nailing Al Capone for tax evasion.

Perhaps an update of The Untouchables will see Benedict Cumberbatch play DCMS Committee Chairman Damian Collins as a modern Eliot Ness. Or Christian Bale as EU Competition Commissioner Margarete Vestager, in the new tradition of the near-real-time biopic.

In any case, as Neville rightly points out the devil is in the detail, and perhaps the European regulators manage to beat the tech giants at their own game of hiding shackles in the Ts&Cs?


For all it’s worth, Google has been hit by a €50m GDPR fine in France. Politico calls this “a new era in privacy enforcement”, but as Sam points out, at 0.07% of turnover that’s probably less than a tick on the back of a hippo.

However, in the same Politico piece, Microsoft President Brad Smith calls a federal privacy law in the US a “historic inevitability”, and with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook banging the same drum, it would appear that two of Silicon Valley’s éminences grises are taking a stand against the tech bro-therhood and its move-fast-and-break-things philosophy.

Regulation is also a key theme for Silicon Valley investor, former Zuckerberg mentor and now outspoken critic, Roger McNamee. He features in this week’s Time Magazine with a big story on how Facebook got where they are, where they lost their way, and what needs to happen next – to defend democracy, fight social media addiction, ensure privacy and protect children. All this, he says, is necessary to mitigate further harm to public health.

Sam moots the idea of class action lawsuits – an interesting idea and a challenge given the fact that all the tech giants are lawyered up to their eyeballs. Which brings us to Netflix’s fascinating and disturbing documentary on the ill-fated Fyre Festival (including the discussion of class action lawsuits). A millennial morality tale, or the perfect analogy for Brexit…?

Brexit chess

Talking, reluctantly, of Brexit:  whilst Neville feels we’re stuck in Groundhog Day (which, as it happens, falls on this coming Saturday), Sam predicts that by SDF episode 125, Britain – in or out of Europe – will have adopted proportional representation instead of first-past-the-post.

This is also a recommendation by an excellent new study on “Brexit and Public Opinion 2019” by the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, led by Professor Anand Menon.

word cloud

Finally, I learn that ‘woke’ is more than the past tense of wake: according to NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway (an American version of Mark Ritson or Byron Sharp, and arguably sharper and more irreverent than both), author of The Four (not FAANG), 2019 will be the year of woke and virtue signalling business strategies, as in Nike’s backing of Colin Kaepernick, Gillette’s The Best Men Can Be ad, or P&G’s Like a Girl campaign for its Always brand.

This chimes with general calls for organizations to focus on their purpose and values and engage in corporate activism – certainly a lead topic throughout 2019 and beyond. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Richard Edelman introduced his firm’s latest Trust Barometer, Trust At Work. It will feature in more detail in our next episode.


Also at Davos, Harvard trained psychologist and poker champion Maria Konnikova wowed her audience with The Psychology of the Con, and the New York Times reported on the “hidden automation agenda of the Davos elite”.

Tough challenges for woke and trust.

Listen to episode 25:

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