No longer should we ex­pect the un­ex­pected

In a post-pri­vacy world, man and ma­chine are get­ting to know us all bet­ter. Be­ing sur­prised by what peo­ple think might be a thing of the past

Campaign UK - - NEWS - MAISIE MCCABE Act­ing UK edi­tor [email protected]­mar­ @maisiem­c­cabe

“There is go­ing to be no pri­vacy left. The ma­chines – and the peo­ple who man them – will know us in­ti­mately”

Many Brits had a new mem­ory of Cannes week this year. Along­side the hours seem­ingly lost with­out a trace at the Gut­ter Bar, the fu­ri­ous sweaty sprints down La Croisette and the in­spi­ra­tional talks – if you were lucky enough to bag a pass – many of us were forced to con­front rec­ol­lec­tions of an al­to­gether more po­lit­i­cal kind. For it was one year af­ter the Brexit vote. A year since so many of us re­alised that we were out of touch with many of our fel­low Brits; a year since 1,269,501 peo­ple en­sured that noth­ing would be the same again.

At an en­ter­tain­ing ses­sion on the Tues­day, Chuck Porter, chair­man of Crispin Porter & Bo­gusky, hosted a dis­cus­sion on what mar­keters must learn from the elec­tions of 2016.

Speak­ing with Porter was Dr Michal Kosin­ski, who was one of the first peo­ple to re­search whether com­put­ers can pre­dict per­son­al­ity traits based on Face­book “likes”. The Stan­ford Univer­sity aca­demic said that his first mo­ti­va­tion was to de­liver a “warn­ing” to show what it was pos­si­ble to do with the in­for­ma­tion peo­ple give up freely. Com­pa­nies, politi­cians and gov­ern­ments can use seem­ingly in­nocu­ous data to re­veal de­tails about you that you would pre­fer to keep pri­vate or could put you at risk, he says.

If you thought the re­cent furore about the use of pri­vate data and the up­com­ing in­tro­duc­tion of the Euro­pean Union’s Gen­eral Data Pro­tec­tion Reg­u­la­tion might set us on a new course, Kosin­ski urges you to tem­per ex­pec­ta­tions. He says that we can win some wars, in­tro­duce some new laws but, in the long term (within five to ten years), there is go­ing to be no pri­vacy left. The ma­chines – and the peo­ple who man them – will know us in­ti­mately.

It’s some­thing to think about as we move fur­ther into an ar­ti­fi­cially in­tel­li­gent world. One that fu­tur­ists such as Ray Kurzweil – who spoke at the Palais along­side PHD’S Mark Holden – be­lieve will see the ma­chines sit­ting not along­side us but in our blood­stream within 20 years.

Last week, Mau­rice Lévy de­scribed to me go­ing to bed on 23 June 2016 as Nigel Farage con­ceded de­feat be­fore wak­ing up to find he had been vic­to­ri­ous. In the early hours of 9 June 2017, there was no false dawn for the Tories as it im­me­di­ately be­came ap­par­ent that some­thing un­ex­pected was hap­pen­ing. Un­ex­pected by many peo­ple, at least. As its chair­man Roger Parry was keen to point out to me the morn­ing af­ter the gen­eral elec­tion, Yougov upped its game this time. By adding a layer of sta­tis­ti­cal mod­el­ling over its panel, Yougov cor­rectly pre­dicted a hung par­lia­ment with a week to go. At the time, Barack Obama staffer turned Theresa May ad­vi­sor Jim Messina was so con­fi­dent about the Con­ser­va­tives’ prospects, he called it “stupid”.

Since Brexit, we’ve had Ogilvy & Mather’s chief strat­egy of­fi­cer, Kevin Ch­esters, send­ing his teams off to the wilds of Grimsby and Atomic London trav­el­ling to deep­est Es­sex in a bid to re­con­nect with peo­ple. Yougov’s suc­cess and the pre­vi­ous ac­cu­racy of Kurzweil’s pre­dic­tions should re­mind us that the ma­chines can help us find the right an­swers too. Even if they might not be the ones we were look­ing for.

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