Ask a group of colleagues to define any of the following words:
- Personal data
You may very well start that discussion on friendly terms, and end it questioning your team’s principles and ideology. As with politics and religion, people have different perspectives when it comes to topics related to privacy and data ownership—and they’re often touchy about discussing them. But why?
Our differing perspectives include insights (knowledge and mood today), varying expectations (culture and outcomes) and personal experiences (crosses to bear).
This opinion piece isn’t trying to convert or sway anyone from their trusted viewpoint; the purpose is to present a framework that enables you to talk to your peers and team about the different starting points, have an engaging debate and not unnecessarily conflict.
Private is Not One State
At the most basic level, the files I create on my machine (whether video, audio, text, or what-have-you) are private. I am in control of the file; I can opt to share it with nobody.
If I begin communicating one-on-one with another, trusted person, our conversation is private—but it’s a different sort of privacy than with the file I create for myself, since the communication is shared.
To add another layer of confusion to that “private” label, we also define collaboration and sharing files as “private” if it involves one other person or a very small group (provided, of course, we trust the medium we’re using to share information).
To add a dimension of CIO-level complexity to this simple dimension of Private, consider current trends such such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Bring Your Own Service Provider (BYOSP). As the cloud becomes every more important within the context of organizations, individuals arrive with their favoured phone, tablet or notebook. And each of those devices is a potential threat to an organization’s data integrity.
For CIOs, the implications are enormous: unless key decision makers within your organization view privacy in the same way, and can establish a degree of purpose and trust on every level, across all services, the resulting confusion will result in conflicting solutions and security trouble.
Share is Not One State
“Share,” like so many English words, has a number of uses (noun and verb) and contexts. It suggests a dependency on others to obey a set of mutually agreed-upon rules and methods. Sharing is an important (maybe the most important) requirement of communication and collaboration, relying on a level of trust.
This where the CIO can have a significant impact on an organisation’s culture, creating an environment of collaboration and sharing, which in turn empowers individuals to innovate and push the boundaries. Alternately, the CIO can choose to enforce a culture of secrecy, lock down, and power plays. And while the cloud can enhance an organization’s ability to share, the CIO needs to pay attention to how the organization’s collaborating and sharing terms extend into that space.
CIO is Key
The CIO plays a key role in an organisation learning to understand what is needed in terms of privacy and sharing, and how those policies are managed and implemented. But in order to power that organizational understanding, the CIO needs to collaborate with others on the management team, and explain how sharing and collaboration adds value and move the discussion on from which technology.
Given the difficulty of defining terms such as Public, Private, Trust and Share, I’m not surprised at how organizations wrestle with personal data and continue to debate it at all levels.
Tony Fish is an author, investor and strategist. He has been founding and growing digital business for over 20 years and now spends some of his time nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs, helping their ideas to flourish. Visit tonyfish.com and mydigitalfootprint.com for more.