Siobhan MacDermott is one of the foremost experts on the future of information technology, consumer dynamics, cyber security, privacy, and business leadership, both within the U.S. and globally. She currently serves as Chief Policy Officer of AVG Technologies.
Ms. MacDermott has worked in senior leadership positions at some of the best U.S. and global technology companies. As both advisor and executive, she helped direct strategy, global marketing, media relations, communications, investor relations, government relations, issue management and policy for companies such as Intel-McAfee, AVG Technologies, Oracle, HP, RSA Security, Betrusted and Sprint PCS. In that capacity, she has worked directly and extensively with Boards of Directors and has lead successful initiatives to engage governments, stakeholders, including policymakers, NGOs and global institutions on existing and emerging issues and regulations.
Ms. MacDermott is widely published, appears frequently in the media and speaks at conferences around the world — working with and participating in the World Economic Forum and the Clinton Global Initiative. She has authored white papers and articles on privacy, consumer dynamics, consumer rights and winning leadership and business strategies. Most recently, Ms. MacDermott authored a Children’s book on Internet Safety and has just co-authored “Wide Open Privacy – Strategies for the Digital Life” (IT-Harvest Press 2012.)
Ms. MacDermott is both a US and EU national, and has worked on four continents and speaks five languages. She received her MBA in International Business from Thunderbird School of Global Management, is working on her second Masters degree at the Fletcher School of Tufts University, and advises and serves on several Board of Directors including the Internet Security Alliance and the Fund for Peace.
Max, Concise Courses:
Let me ask you a marketing perspective – obviously we are in the community and a lot of these issues are very close to us, and I had a similar conversation yesterday, there seems to be [a trend whereby] people react after their identity has been stolen and then they start beefing up. How proactive do you feel, lets say schools are with regards to brining the child identity theft issue to the forefront, or whats working, for example with bringing these issues to companies? It seems to me that when it comes to online privacy the financial institutions are somewhat progressive but when you’re dealing with hospitality, food and beverage, Facebook and social media are so critical, how seriously do you really feel people are taking these issues and what’s working from a marketing perspective?
I’ll address the two separately. I think that in schools we see a real lack of education and a real, what we are calling a ‘cyber-gap’ between the teacher and the kids and the parents and the kids, where the kids are much more Internet savvy than the parents – they know more about it and there’s a sort of hesitance to get out there and tell kids how to behave online because kids can turn around and say, ‘well what do you know, you don’t even have a Facebook account! Why should you tell me what I should and shouldn’t post!’ That notion is one problem. I think also that kids in today’s world have a different notion of privacy than we did growing up. We expected some level of privacy, they are growing up in a world where everything is online and they are a mini celebrity in their own world, so it doesn’t really faze them that the information is out there to a large extent. They don’t understand the pitfalls and the vulnerabilities what can happen later in life.
I think that schools need to do more. We are going to be releasing a free student edition of ‘Wide Open Privacy’ that we are going to give out to High Schools and Colleges and we would like to see that as mandatory reading for anybody at High School and all around the world because its going to help you to protect your identity. It’s free, its not something we are trying to drive any revenue off – we are really just trying to raise awareness, so that’s the school issue.
In the food and beverage industry and hospitality, that is a different world, you go to a launch party with a Champagne company and you are going to be plastered everywhere whether you know it or not. I think that people don’t realize that if you get dressed up and go to these events that your photos wont be used and posted online, they are still thinking back to the old days that their picture might be in a paper or maybe in a magazine somewhere in the Town and Country Celebrity section, hopefully if I’m lucky! They don’t really think that its going to be up on Facebook, tagged where people can identify them, so again, thinking about your behavior at these types of events, thinking about what kind of image do you want to portray.
One of the key themes of the book is turning the marketing thing around, so – instead of playing defense with your brand perpetually, your personal brand, we say, play offense. Go out there just like you would to brand a company, just like you would create a brand and an image that you would like that company to have, do that with your own personal brand and your own personal image. Don’t let other people control your brand because in today’s world it’s going to be done for you if you don’t do it yourself.
Max, Concise Courses:
Absolutely. What can you advise people when they find themselves in a situation where their brand has been negatively impacted. I had somebody who we were interacting with a while ago and I performed a Google search on that individual ,and very horrible YouTube videos came up – right at the top of the search results. Whether what people were saying was true or not true, what kind of recourse does an individual or a company have with regards to maybe taking that video off YouTube that talks negatively about them?
Well I think that on the corporate side it is a little bit easier because you have defamation laws and legal council that can write snarly letters to people at YouTube and ask them to remove it and generally they have a way of contacting and accessing them [the hosting owners]. I think that for individuals it’s harder. One thing we always tell people is, ‘Google yourself!’ – figure out what’s out there about you. There are companies out there where you can search engine optimize your results, so I can Google myself and look at the top ten results or the top one hundred results and I can click ‘this is me’ and ‘this is not me’ and ‘I’d like to flag this for removal’ and what these guys will do is actually bury that result on page two hundred as opposed to the top ten, so you can optimize for that top page that comes up.
There are a ton of companies that do this, it’s not overly expensive, I think that the other piece is that if you find something that is posted saying something defamatory, you can generally go back to service provide like Facebook or Google and say this is offensive and I’d like it tagged and flagged for the removal process. Now that does take a little bit of persistence because it’s not always the easiest thing to do and to find out how to do it. Increasingly there are tools out there that allow people to do that. One of the big things is that you need to know what’s out there and generally you find this information not under the best of circumstances because somebody points it out to you in mitigating circumstances like during a job interview. The [job interview] could say, ‘hey! this is Google result number two do you really want this up here?’
It’s important [in the same way as you] check your credit score that you Google yourself and see what is being said out there and takes steps to optimize them and put them in the right direction.
Max, Concise Courses:
Sounds good, I have a couple of questions here, with Instagrams decision to sell private images, is this a precedent for the future or a bad move that will probably not be repeated?
Well I would think that there will probably be some regulation around it at some point, when governments get around to agreeing with it, but at this point I would say that it is a precedent. Information that is out there and pictures are being shared whether you like it or not and one of the big things that we work on in our day job is specifically making people aware of the danger. A lot the guys making the rules on this stuff just don’t know, they have no idea what instagram or Facebook is. The more noise you can make around it the better it is.
Max, Concise Courses:
I have a nice international question here which is going to out you on the spot! Who protects their citizens more the USA or EU? In other words what laws protect their citizens more to allow for greater privacy?
Well that’s a great question, and I sit on both sides of the fence, because AVG is a European company listed in the US and I lived half my life in Europe and half in the US. I think that if you look at the privacy regulations and the data protection act in Europe, they are much more restrictive than the US and so I would say that even most people in the US would agree that Europe has taken a leadership position on privacy.
Now, if your into e-commerce and and global free-flow of information there are companies that are complaining that it is too restrictive because they cant monetize their user base appropriately, so I think a balance needs to be found and I think its important that there needs to be kind of cross border collaboration between the US and EU that at the very least have some kind of agreed upon common ground so that cross border commerce can continue to happen. It’s incredibly difficult, when I was living in Europe (I have a European passport and an American passport) and I’m sitting in a third country – which privacy law applies to me? How do you treat me? My data is sitting in the US, I’m sitting in over here and maybe the data was compromised in a third country. It’s a very complex issue. I would say that on the privacy side Europe has taken a bit of a leadership position at this point.
Max, Concise Courses:
Obviously Facebook came out with their search widget, what are your thoughts on that? Are there any privacy issues that screamed at you when you saw the demo’s of the search tool.
Well sort of initially yes. I am not sure if I want everybody to search everything I;ve ever put up there. From a personal standpoint it makes me think do I have to go back and clean my posts or delete some things which is going to take time and effort to get everything right. We are in the process of writing a blog about it and looking at individual privacy setting adjustments that people can make. There are some privacy implications , who sees what and what kind of information. Be aware! If you have 900 friends, 200 of whom are close friends with, and the rest of them are loose acquaintances you may not want to have that information shared with start culling your friends list!
Max, Concise Courses:
Thank you so much. Your books available online through Amazon and book stores. We’d love to have you back on and thank you for sharing your wisdom with our audience.
Sure! Thank you as well. Thanks for having me.