Cambridge Analytica was Facebook’s ‘leaky bucket’, says Google Australia boss

Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal was not “just about data” but rather a conversation about the value a user is getting from releasing their information, Google Australia’s boss Jason Pellegrino had said.

Pellegrino, who spoke on a CEO panel at Sydney’s CeBIT tech conference today, told the audience there had to be a “utility exchange” for the data a business obtains, adding if there is no trust, it can prove detrimental.

The panel at today’s CeBIT conference (L-R): Google’s Jason Pellegrino, The Australian’s Nicholas Gray, Twitter Australia’s Suzy Nicoletti and Yahoo7’s Ed Harrison

“If I look at the Cambridge Analytica issue that came through, that’s not just about data and often it gets bucketed together,” Pellegrino said.

“That was about a leaky bucket. That data was going to places that consumers didn’t expect, didn’t agree with and got not value out of themselves.

“None of these data buckets should be leaky. However, it’s started a discussion about what’s in the bucket itself. The data that’s there has been used to deliver a great service – no one has been sitting there saying Netflix ‘I can’t believe the data that you’re sharing’ – because they are delivering a wonderful service.”

Facebook was thrown into the limelight a month ago after it was found more than 300,000 Australian users were among the millions globally who may have had their information improperly shared with digital consultancy Cambridge Analytica. Since then, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg was asked to give evidence to a Senate Committee and Cambridge Analytica has filed for bankruptcy.

The comments today came up in a conversation around personalisation of content and the future of businesses.

The Google executive said collecting data that doesn’t deliver value to users “creates risk”.

“The utility exchange consists of ensuring consumers have full transparency and control over the data they share with you as an organisation, that you hold onto that data in a way that you would similarly hold onto any other asset that you have within an organisation and protect that. And that you only use that data to improve the service products and deliver mechanisms that you provide to that consumer,” he said.

Cambridge Analytica filed for bankruptcy earlier this month

“If you are holding onto data that you aren’t using, it’s kind of like having extra cash in a retail store. There is no advantage other than risk.”

Later, he added: “The willingness to share data and that trust breakdown probably shuts down a lot of avenues to future potential to deliver great services, in terms of asking for permission for access to other data points that actually could help deliver better services.”

On the topic of personalisation more specifically, Pellegrino, who shared the panel with The Australian’s CEO Nicholas Gray, Twitter Australia’s managing director, Suzy Nicoletti, and Yahoo7’s outgoing CEO Ed Harrison, said personalisation done poorly was “worse” than none at all.

“There is huge upside and huge value, it does power this new age of personalisation and your ability to deliver better products and services across all facets of your business,” he said.

He also pointed to the important and incredibly valuable data it receives from its users, noting the consequence of breaking trust with them was “dire”.

“Data is an incredibly valuable asset that users are willing to share with you and it’s based on trust. And that trust principle is fundamental,” he said.

“We don’t take it for granted because at the end of the day we have zero contracts with any users. If that trust is broken, our business doesn’t exist.”


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