No Apology for Snapchat Security Breach

snapchatspeigel No Apology for Snapchat Security Breach

The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) for Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel.

Does being CEO and founder of the Internet’s overvalued social fad of the moment mean never having to say you’re sorry? Looks like CEO Evan Spiegel of Snapchat, the self-deleting photo-messaging app, thinks so.

Hackers celebrated New Year’s Day by publishing the user names and private phone numbers associated with 4.6 million Snapchat profiles. The breach occurred after the start-up, whose very appeal derives from its promise of privacy, seemingly ignored an outside security firm’s warning about a security hole. Citing Snapchat’s months-long lack of action, the firm made the warning public on Christmas Eve.

It’s not the first time Snapchat and its founder have been called out for hubris, but this one could really cost. In the days after the breach, security experts lined up to predict class-action lawsuits and regulatory investigations. As for Spiegel,  he declined to offer any kind of apology or mea culpa, telling an interviewer that in a fast-moving business like his, “If you spend your time looking backwards, you’re just going to kill yourself.” An attitude like that could make Snapchat as short-lived as the photos its users share.

THE PR VERDICT: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Evan Spiegel, for a tone-deaf response to a crisis that only a company lawyer could love.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Own your mistakes. A 22-year-old CEO of a $2 billion company, for all his genius and entrepreneurial skill, probably doesn’t possess the maturity to get beyond the “It’s not my fault” mentality. But Spiegel’s non-apology almost certainly came on advice from nervous lawyers that he avoid admitting culpability. It showcases the dynamic tension that typically exists between corporate legal and PR teams, whose overlapping missions occasionally chafe. We’ll see if Snapchat remains as blasé when users fight back.

The PRV Report Card: This Week’s Winners & Losers

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR WINNER OF THE WEEK: “A” (PR PERFECT) to Trustwave Spider Labs, for being credited with identifying a massive hacking operation of over two million social media account usernames and passwords stolen from Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and other sites. Trustwave researchers found this latest cache after a massive attack on Adobe that left an astounding 38 million accounts vulnerable. “We don’t have evidence [the hackers] logged into these accounts, but they probably did,” said John Miller, a security research manager at Trustwave. The compromised companies notified users after Trustwave tipped them off. Kudos to the PR flaks who alerted the media that it was Trustwave, not the individual sites, that found evidence of the breaches.

googlevil The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersPR LOSER OF THE WEEK: “F” (Full Fiasco) to Google, following disclosure that it funded political lobbying groups that helped force the recent US government shutdown. The “Don’t Be Evil” doers have, in fact, supported a number of right-wing organizations and are fairly transparent about it. Their contributions to Heritage Action, which actively pushed for the government shutdown, came to light in a report last week by a liberal non-profit. Google, like other big tech firms, has a strong libertartian, anti-tax streak and an active cash-backed lobbying effort in Washington that, like most, gets spread around to all sides. But it’s one thing to back both sides in a legitimate policy debate, and another entirely to fund what amounts to domestic political terrorism.

 The PRV Report Card: This Weeks Winners & LosersTHE PRV “THERE’S NO ‘THERE’ THERE” AWARD to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for the most recent plot twist in the bizarre political theater playing out in Canada’s largest city. Ford’s latest disavowal is that he did not offer $5000 and a car to alleged drug dealers in exchange for a video of him smoking crack cocaine. “Number one, that’s an outright lie and number two, you can talk to my lawyers about it,” Ford said on a Washington DC-based radio program, to which he was invited to discuss football. This, of course, follows his denial-then-admission of smoking crack in the first place, and his denial that he orally pleasured a female staffer (“I’ve got more than enough to eat at home,” was his comment).  At this point, even football isn’t a safe topic for Rob Ford to speak about.

Chipotle’s “Hacked” Tweets the Latest PR “Twend”?

Chipotle Logo 150x150 Chipotles Hacked Tweets the Latest PR Twend?

The PR Verdict: “C” (Distinctly OK ) for Chipotle’s Twitter “twick.”

Time was you were no one without a Twitter feed (Anthony Weiner, take note). But in the attention-challenged world of social media, trends move faster than you can click a Facebook “Like,” and the new mark of the Twitterati arriviste is to have your feed hacked. It’s so trendy, in fact, that some corporate marketeers are faking it.

Burrito franchiser Chipotle is the most recent case. A series of nonsensical non sequiturs crossed its Twitter feed last week before some guy named “Joe” tweeted about a “little problem with our account. But everything is back on track now!” Well whew!

As it turns out, it was all a marketing ploy, and by at least one measure it worked. The hourlong “hack” added 4,000 followers to Chipotle’s Twitter feed that day (compared to an average of 250), and the faux tweets were retweeted thousands of times (against a typical 75). “We thought people would pay attention,” a company rep later said, acknowledging that the “attack” was a tie-in to the company’s 20th anniversary promotion. Reaction, he said, was “overwhelmingly positive.”

Well, maybe. Not everyone thought the stunt was endearingly clever. Like its zesty Mexican fare, Chipotle’s spicy Twitter trick (“Twick,” anyone?) might have seemed a good idea at the time but result in little more than heartburn.

THE PR VERDICT: “C” (Distinctly OK) for Chipotle, for taking a bite of PR risk that so far hasn’t bitten back.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Be careful with edgy humor, lest you become the punchline. The PR blooper reel is laden with jokes that backfired badly. The same caution goes for jumping on the latest trend or doing anything that potentially makes fun of your intended audience. With the corporate world’s rush into social marketing have come some embarrassing failures (remember #McDStories?). There is a growing backlash against companies that hamfistedly try to be hip or au courant with social media, and this is especially true among teen-to-twentysomethings to whom fast food chains like Chipotle cater. Skinny jeans don’t look good on everyone. Take a careful look from all angles to make sure what you’re doing fits.

Yahoo Appeals to Its Own Vanity

yahoo logo 600 Yahoo Appeals to Its Own Vanity

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Yahoo! and its recycled ID plan.

Everything old is new again at internet giant Yahoo! Silicon Valley’s wannabe comeback kid announced plans to recycle unused account IDs to free them up for new users – a bone-toss to any user saddled with alphanumeric mouthful like johndsmith12345. “If you’re like me, you want a Yahoo ID that’s short, sweet, and memorable,” Jay Rossiter, Yahoo’s SVP for Platforms, announced on the company’s Tumblr blog.

Not everyone loved the news. Hackerphobes quickly raised concerns that recycling IDs could expose users to identity theft and other security threats. Traditionally account IDs are almost never recycled for fear that hackers can use them to gain access to other, still active accounts. A writer for Wired Magazine who has chronicled his personal experience with a crippling hacker attack called Yahoo’s plan “a spectacularly bad idea.”

Yahoo on the other hand, seeking to inject new enthusiasm into its brand and still fighting a “Your Father’s Internet” reputation,  promised that appropriate security safeguards were in place. But embarrassingly , when pressed, it couldn’t assert that the plan was hacker-proof. Yahoo is now left wiping spam off its corporate face.

THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Yahoo’s questionable plan and hedgy commitment to user security.

THE PR TAKEAWAY: Prepare for the obvious. Coming as it did amid revelations of Internet spying by the government, Yahoo’s pitch to new users seems particularly poorly timed and bound to raise tough questions. Not even a PR magician could salvage what appears to be an ill-conceived, poorly-vetted plan. Besides the legitimate security issues, recycling user IDs seems slightly gimmicky. In the end Yahoo couldn’t vouchsafe on questions of security. The result? Yahoo looked desperate to make a splash and walked straight into a PR blunder.

Guess Who Confessed To Hacking Again?

Phone hacking1 Guess Who Confessed To Hacking Again?

The PR Verdict: "F" for Murdoch and public interest

Fancy that!  BSKYB the television broadcaster has fessed up to phone hacking.  Is the latest revelation from another Murdoch controlled news organization all that surprising?

Besides being astonishingly embarrassing for Murdoch, it follows on the heels of his son James’s resignation from BSKYB and increases scrutiny on a proprietor who has broken his trust with the public.  The circumstances of the cases were detailed by BSKYB,  who while acknowledging that hacking was illegal, said it was authorized by the News Editor to benefit the public interest.  SKY thundered this illegal act was only done under strict rules and for a specific purpose.  No need for us to worry then.

Next time it may be less of a hassle to simply hand over the file to the police to avoid these sorts of problems.

The PR Verdict: “F” for Murdoch (yet again) and his newly found PR strategy of claiming protection by way of public interest.  Is there any thing else to confess while we are here?

Cloaking the issue in the mantle of public interest has inherent risks.  Since when has society broadly consented to giving editors carte blanche to break the law?  Without defining the “public interest” served in this case, the waters are now muddied.  Why not simply say they were all errors of judgment?  Far simpler given the pattern and volume across Murdoch based businesses.

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What is your verdict? Is claiming the public interest a good PR strategy?

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