While the explosive growth of social networks over the last decade has driven a revolution in ad targeting and content distribution, it has also given users a heightened awareness of their privacy and how their data may be used. Much of this can be traced back to news events; headlines about data breaches and misuse in mainstream media outlets have become frequent.
We tried to zoom out to understand how much of the privacy conversation was driven by current events and news reports. We found that while privacy-focused headlines can and do drive a significant amount of attention in a short period of time, they have also created a lasting atmosphere of awareness.
Data Privacy Conversations – 2014-2019
When analyzing the impact of social conversation on brands and issues, our experience has been that the lifecycle of a story or theme is relatively predicable: there is a baseline amount of conversation every day, but when news breaks, many more people will join that conversation, though most simply share a headline and move on. Occasionally there may be some meaningful conversation about an issue, and it may have a tail that lasts for several days, but few issues remain permanent for long, and almost none last for years.
But not with privacy. On any given day, there are now nearly twice as many conversations about data privacy online than there were just a few years ago. Headlines do create spikes in conversation, but they’ve had a cumulative effect over the last five years that has driven a seemingly permanent shift. New headlines drive new spikes, but the return to normal isn’t a full return — normal keeps creeping upward.