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It’s 11 PM – Do You Know Where Your Data Is? | @CloudExpo #IoT #ML #BigData

In this fast-paced, rapidly changing technology environment we live in today, we are providing & collecting huge amounts of data

I was recently on a business trip out to Wausau, WI. The purpose was to conduct a training session on web application development for a new batch of associates at our onshore development center. When I picked up my rental car at the airport, I was very happy to discover it had built in Bluetooth integration for my phone. I have this feature on both cars at home. I love the convenience of having the car become an accessory for my mobile device. I immediately bound my phone with the car's Bluetooth. Then something unusual happened. My phone prompted me with a question: ‘Chevy/Malibu would like access to your contacts list, click OK to grant request.' My first reaction was no, and canceled the request. Each time I started the car, it would persistently ask the question. My curiosity got the better of me, and I finally relinquished and said OK to see what happened next.

A Wonderful Convenience, but...What Is the Tradeoff?
What happened was my entire contact list was available on the in-dash display, grouped in folders alphabetically (A-C, D-F, etc.). A wonderful convenience for making calls while driving in the car. Each time I got in the car, the phone would prompt me with the same question. It wasn't until the 2nd or 3rd day I started wondering about the data, how it was being stored, protected. I had just recently attended several sessions at Gartner IT Symposium on data privacy and security and the wheels starting turning. Privacy is all about the data, and security about how we protect it. Well the data was all of my contact information, business and personal. I was realizing I had no idea how/if it was being protected once I said yes to share that data with my rental car (still finding the concept that I shared my contact info with my rental car a little strange as I type those words).

The next time I got the prompt from my phone about sharing the data with my rental car, I said, No, expecting the list of numbers to be no longer available on the in-dash display. Much to my surprise and dismay, the contact information I had previously shared was still available on the in-dash display. As I searched through the menu on the in dash display, I found a list of approximately fifteen different phones (including mine) that had been bound to the Bluetooth (which makes sense, it was after all a rental car). Once I deleted my phone from the list, all the contact information I had shared went away.

Privacy vs the World
I bring this incident up not start a panic, no ‘the sky is falling' or the ‘world has my data' rant. I raise it as an example of how pervasive our data usage and consumption is in today's world of the ‘Internet of Everything.' The incident brought home one of the presentations I attended at the Gartner Symposium entitled ‘Privacy vs the World' presented by Heidi Wachs, a research director at Gartner. She presented many examples similar to my experience described above. She raised the point that ‘the lines between social culture, corporate culture and regulation are blurred when it comes to privacy.' She asked the attendees ‘How can organizations truly define privacy so that it is appropriately preserved?' The discussion revolved around the constant struggle and balancing of the business needs, convenience, and addressing privacy and security concerns of the users of the system. As many of you know, one of my favorite sayings is ‘Everything is a tradeoff.' The phrase was never truer than in our new world of SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud), where new uses and the data that is being collected appear at breakneck speeds, sometimes before we even understand the implications and tradeoffs involved.

If Data Passes Through Your System, You Have a Responsibility
As technologists, we have a responsibility to help the business understand the tradeoffs and risks involved in this rapidly changing environment. We as humans, by nature, love to hoard things, and data is no different. We are accumulating large amounts of data as it passes through our systems. If it is in or passes through your system, you have a responsibility to ensure the rules are followed. What level of privacy is needed / required / desired is fully dependent on the data itself. Not all data is created equal; some requires more privacy than others. Privacy and the security mechanisms needed to implement that privacy is not a once and done kind of thing; it's constantly evolving and changing. Heidi asked a challenging question in the session I mentioned earlier. ‘When a law enforcement agency comes asking for all that data you have been hoarding, what will you do?' Better to be proactive and plan ahead than reactive when the situation occurs.

Do You Know Where Your Data Is?
In this fast paced, rapidly changing technology environment we live in today, we are providing and collecting huge amounts of data from an ever-increasing number of potential sources, whether they be mobiles, wearables, our vehicles, or any other of a myriad of sources we haven't even thought about. This data is traveling through the nebulous cloud environment we all love to talk about, and traveling through the ether to its final destination. Our challenge as technologists is to understand the implications, challenges, and tradeoffs involved in that world, and be able to articulate those to the business so that the proper balance between business needs, data privacy, convenience, et al, can be achieved. It all starts with that simple question I started with, it's 11pm, do you know where your data is?

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

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