Grab 'Em By The Data

Social media reacts to Trump’s Executive Order dismantling online privacy

On an average day, a person may browse for batteries on Amazon, mindlessly scroll through  Facebook, and google Furby for nostalgia’s sake. Data trickles from every point as you leave your digital imprint. As companies leverage this data, advertisements become more personalized to your web browsing history and, suddenly, your private habits feel less anonymous and more like a flashing neon sign that reads, “stalk me and take my money.”


Consumer protections have been introduced in the past — the Federal Communications Commission required that Internet Service Providers receive consumers’ permission to share private data with third parties. But these protections came crashing down on Monday, when President Trump signed a bill into law killing the FCC’s privacy rules.
The signing of this bill was swift and relatively quiet, by Trump standards. On Mar. 28, Trump signed an executive order to eliminate the Clean Power Plan and the House of Representatives voted to repeal a law that prohibited Internet Service Providers from sharing users’ web browsing history without permission.
How did citizens react to this reversal? Social media enables us to examine the conversation around Trump weakening internet privacy and the multiple stakeholders involved.

A Sneak Attack

If it was Trump’s goal to introduce a dizzying array of attacks on Obama-era legislation, he’s been quite effective at achieving his desired effect.
Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 4.53.11 PM
Looking at conversation about these major policies with mentions of Trump, Obamacare has remained the biggest topic of discussion so far. The Republicans’ failure to win support for the American Health Care Act, their alternative to Obamacare, contributed to the biggest spike in discussion.
Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 4.54.58 PM
Unlike the initial climate change announcement, Trump’s first unveiling of internet privacy policy landed with a soft splatter instead of a splash.  The post volume for eliminating the Clean Power Plan was 14 times higher than the House of Representatives voting to repeal consumer protections. Though the Obamacare conversation was the largest of the three since January 1, when Republicans unveiled their plan to repeal Obamacare on Mar. 6, only 9.6k posts were generated that day. Looking at longer term and single day discussion trends can shed insight on how public sentiment develops.
Pasted image at 2017_04_05 09_35 AM

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 4.57.59 PM

Digging deeper into the emotional sentiment, half of posts excluding neutral were classified as anger since January 1. As frustration ensued, tempers ran high. At the other end of the spectrum, others were bewildered as to why people would mind their data being sold.

1984 or 2017?

While telecommunications companies may be rejoicing at the prospect of digging into the gold minefield of user data, consumer protection advocates and consumers have a lot to lose.
Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 4.58.08 PM
The main topic was about the consumers who will be adversely affected by Trump’s actions. People were particularly rattled by Trump’s law enabling already powerful internet providers to monetize consumer data even more.

A significant portion of the conversation was centered around telecommunications companies generally, but also on specific brands like Comcast and Verizon.

Policymakers like Barack Obama and Trump’s FCC Chief, Ajit Pai, were also discussed. Obama was mentioned in the context of the privacy rules he introduced being repealed by Trump. Pai is outspoken about his views against net neutrality, and people took to social media to condemn his villainous intentions.
Trump’s tax returns were discussed in the context of the hypocrisy of Trump securing his information illegally, while making it legal for corporations to leverage consumer data.

Behavioral targeting has been taken to the next level with the repeal of consumer protections. Analyzing social conversation helps us understand where consumer protections falls in comparison to other legislation, and how people are processing their future as Internet users.

Request a Demo

Ready to transform your business?

Get a walkthrough of Crimson Hexagon and learn how consumer insights can help you make better business decisions.