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2014: Time to rethink privacy

Evan Schuman | Jan. 2, 2014
Companies have to fully confront the privacy issues they face and rethink their policies from the bottom up.

Not that Google is alone in wanting to sell you minute-by-minute geolocation tracking of every employee, customer and supplier. This brings us back to 2014 plans. Businesses need to change the way they view privacy so they can make proper decisions about how far to let companies like that go. Making these decisions on a case-by-case basis, which is how most IT executives handle privacy decisions today, won't work any longer. These decisions must be made and approved at the CEO and board level and then mandated through every department. (Especially marketing, given that no one in quite some time has seen so much as a hint of Jiminy Cricket or, for that matter, anyone's conscience, in a marketing meeting.)

Let's take a look at some of the key areas where you're going to need to champion some decision-making:

1. BYOD mobile policies
The idea of permitting (forcing?) employees to use their personal property for business activities has its pluses and minuses, but the trend is prevalent enough that it's all but inevitable for most enterprises. Security protocols are going to mandate that personal phones and tablets be backed up regularly, just like corporate information devices. This forces the privacy debate: how to guarantee that these backups to IT servers (the cloud makes no difference here) do not expose personal information or images to corporate.

The answer is going to be some form of partitioning, with corporate data and apps completely segregated from personal data and apps. That way, IT can silently access and back up everything on its side of the Mason-Dixon Line without privacy worries. And when the employee quits, is laid off or is fired? On the last day, everything on the corporate side of the device can be remotely wiped.

2. The myth that young consumers don't care about privacy
Why is this a myth? Because it has become conventional wisdom on the basis of some shoddy survey questions. If you ask any group of people, "How much do you value your privacy?" you are going to get very different answers than if you asked those people to rank specific examples of personal information that they wouldn't want to be exposed.

As the father of a teenage girl, I can tell you that teens do value privacy, but what they don't consider to be private is stunning. Social interactions (including the baby-making kind) are matters to be freely shared on social sites, as are mobile phone numbers. But bank account information and payment card activity are not things they want other people to know about. (Remember Blippy's? It was a site that let shoppers publicize what they purchased. Turns out almost no one wanted to do that.)

 

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