Nearly a week ago, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones wrote an article about Spinvox, a UK firm that turns voicemail messages into text. The central tenet of the article was that the service uses humans to convert messages a lot more than it leads people to believe, which leads to a number of questions about the security and privacy of messages transcribed by Spinvox. Within his article, Rory was able to cite responses to the points made from Spinvox, made ‘in a statement’.
So far, so normal. And, perhaps, only of niche interest to people who work within technology or who use the service.
However, my eye was caught this morning by a tweet from @Ruskin147 (Rory Cellan-Jones), saying ‘New blog post – Spinvox, we stand by our story’. Hmm, I thought. This might be interesting, and I’m a bit bored. My fingers crept towards the link, and lo, I was reading Rory’s follow-up article on the same story.
James Whatley – who ‘runs social media’ at Spinvox – posted a lengthy and on the face of it comprehensive rebuttal of the original claims made by the BBC. All still as you would expect. Or is it?
The original article by Rory Cellan-Jones was written by a professional technical and investigative journalist, and posted on the main BBC News site. Not hidden away within an obscure techy blog somewhere, right there – on the site of one of the most trusted news outlets in the world. Spinvox’s *only* response is that on James Whatley’s blog. The original ‘statement’ referred to in the original article is nowhere to be found on their site, nor is a statement from anyone more senior than their resident blogger.
Now this is what intrigues me. Regardless of the validity or otherwise of the claims within both of Rory Cellan-Jones’ articles, Spinvox ignores the reach and credibility of the BBC at their peril. Blogging absolutely has its place in the world, and can be an incredibly powerful tool in communications, awareness raising and campaigning, for individuals, not-for-profits and commercial entities alike. And used in the right way, with the right tone of voice and depth of content, can be just as valuable as a traditional PR press release.
However, I don’t think Spinvox has achieved either the right tone or depth of reply. The tone of their response is, at best, flippant. It doesn’t read like – and I’m not sure that it is – a serious and considered reply to important and concerning allegations levelled at them. (As long as they have ‘kick-ass data security standards’, then that’s alright then. Why should I worry?! And aw shucks, you’re right ‘legal stuff never is easy’, so that’s OK, don’t worry about trying to explain it to simple ol’ me.)
Add this to the fact that none of this ‘maelstrom’ has even made it into their News section, and one might be drawn to the conclusion that there is either something to hide, or they just don’t care enough to provide a formal, attributed comment to the accusations made. (Incidentally, nothing has made it into the Spinvox news pages since October 2008, so perhaps only the end of the world or a similar sized event is thought worthy?)
I’m not going to comment on the rights and wrongs of the actual charges levelled, I don’t use Spinvox and I’m not a massive technology geek. However, the quality and type of Spinvox’s response has made me unlikely to ever want to use their service in future.
Sometimes, you do have to ‘go all corporate’ and wheel out the big guns. It’s called picking your battles, and if Spinvox aren’t careful they could very soon find themselves licking their mortal, BBC-shaped wounds and wondering where it all went wrong.
* I don’t know who, if anyone, is actually lying. It just made a nice title. Please don’t sue.