Orginally published on CIO.co.uk, April 2015. It’s hard to believe that live streaming for the masses was still a novelty as recently as 2015. How quickly things change.
I’m part of the disenfranchised majority. But hey, that’s enough about the UK’s political system. I’m also an Android user, so that’s two disenfranchised majorities of which I’m a member.
As an Android user, the word Meerkat conjures up the cognitive dissonance of a Russian-accented African mammal that advertises a price comparison service. Mary Meeker never predicted that one.
But in the realm of San Francisco iOS App startups, Meerkat (and rival service Periscope) represent a new wave of radical transparency on the Internet. Both apps allow users to live stream their world in video and audio straight from their smartphone. The ability to broadcast to the world is now available in people’s pockets (data charges may apply).
As is common with new Internet services, one can imagine that the early content will be dominated with mundanity, titillation and a few pioneering marketers doing things that the majority regard as pointless (see also: the Carlsberg Virtual Pint app – the first app anyone ever demonstrated to me on an iPhone).
Will Periscope or Meerkat enter the mainstream? Who knows. But they undoubtedly plot the beginning of a new direction of travel. A direction where anything and everything is exposed to the world.
There are other places you can see these trends happening. Watch the crash helmets of cyclists and motorcyclists in cities these days. Increasingly you’ll see GoPro cameras attached, recording daring-do (or more likely to act as an insurance policy against future accident claims). In a counter-measure, lorries are increasingly being fitted with cameras too (“For Security and Safety Purposes”). Go on the average London bus these days and you can check your hair from multiple angles in the display screen live-streaming coverage from multiple angles.
Now these cameras aren’t necessarily live streaming to the world, but that’s a minor technical patch to change.
What does this mean for the ways in which organisations regard security and information management? What does this all mean for privacy? Again, who knows (exactly) – but you can be sure that assumptions about closed doors and protection are being stretched beyond the limits of anything we have seen before.
Working openly, not just “being more open” (implicating that some things can remain closed) is the way we are heading, unless significant cultural and legislative change comes quickly. To be frank, I can’t see that happening. Our existing laws can’t cope: the existing Data Protection Act in the UK comes from 1998, essentially a time before mass World Wide Web, let alone hyper-connected smart devices in pockets. Copyright Law is from an age of print. The pace of technological change is outpacing our legal and business regulation at an exponential pace.
Majority reaction in organisations to such technological changes are mostly to resist. That’s what organisations are hard-wired (for the most part) to do – denial, resistance…
What does a technology strategy look like that accepts that change is happening and is persistent? My hunch is it stops thinking about control, and starts thinking about shaping platforms. Take a second. What’s your organisation’s reaction to services like Periscope or Meerkat? Something for marketing to deal with?
Now think about how many of your people are carrying a smartphone, uncontrolled, unaccountable? Is your reaction now to assume that none of them can be trusted?
Now try to think about how you might embrace such technologies. How might they make your business more productive? More valuable?
If you struggle with those last questions, you’re not alone. But reacting by burying your head in the sand isn’t a valid response any more. Stop confusing Meerkats with Ostriches.