( Photo courtesy Markon Cooperative )

More than 2.2 billion people have entrusted Facebook with personal information — who their friends are, their likes and dislikes, political interests, taste in music, and a slew of other information.

In exchange, they receive perceived benefits, including the ability to keep in touch with far-flung acquaintances, watch their kids, track family activities and reconnect with old friends. But trust is fragile and being threatened, as many people are questioning whether the benefits of connections outweigh the risks to privacy.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, is continuing his apology tour, and while the news of Facebook’s misuse of data continues, the truth is that pushback on technology firms is extending beyond Facebook.

Facebook and other technology firms are being pressed for greater accountability, transparency and responsibility over the technologies they put forth, their effect on consumers and the companies behind the technologies.

This trend was identified in the 2018 Food Foresight trends intelligence report, which cites the reasons behind the trend as plentiful and growing: declining trust in institutions; the socialization of information giving every and anybody an online voice; mounting privacy concerns and a ubiquitously connected world increasingly driven by data, the internet of things, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and more.

These factors are combining with new concerns over the growing political, social and financial power of technology companies, antitrust concerns, the inherent insecurity of the internet, and the proliferation of “fake news” and click-bait.

No matter the reasons, technology firms could be headed for trouble and their brands are at risk. David Ogilvy, often called the father of advertising, described a brand as the “intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”

Put simply, your brand is whatever someone thinks of when he or she hears your brand name, whether factual or emotional. This means your brand exists only in someone’s mind.

Technology is losing clout with consumers because we are seeing the downside of what we previously saw through rose-colored glasses.

All the while, technology companies have acquired — through voluntary actions of folks like you and me — something of extreme value and something that is growing even more valuable day by day: data.

So what is the impact of it all to food and agriculture organizations? For one thing, we are after the same thing as many tech firms: trust.

We should watch how the trust barometer unfolds with technology firms to draw insights about our own operations.

Questions to consider: is your organization respectful of user data? Are you in-tune to the wants, needs and concerns of your end users? Are you operating transparently? And — importantly — are you providing benefits to your audiences that outweigh any perceived risks?

Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. E-mail him at timy@markon.com.

 
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