Corporations Victim to Online Parasites

Posted on October 6, 2010

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Corporations are increasingly and inadvertently sharing Brand Capital with Internet start-ups, or should I say Upstarts, in a poorly balance value exchange that with a little reorientation of thinking could be of significant marking worth.

For those of you familiar with roaming across picturesque hills and across idyllic pastures frequented by sheep and cattle, the appearance of the odd tick on your leg’s will probably come as little surprise. Not desirable I admit but an infrequent reality of getting up close to what remains of our green and pleasant land, and simply dealt with leaving little lasting effect other than some short lived distress to those of a squeamish and or delicate disposition.

Just as in the wilderness of our physical realm the wild frontier of our digital realm harbours a similar parallel. Malware (virus, spyware, Trojans etc) aside, I would akin these to diseases of a microbial scale (smaller than the eye can see) than the parasites of the macro realm like the aforementioned Tick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick ) which are well within the visual capacity of the human eye to discern, and increasingly with longevity of association!

You get the jist, back to the digital realm ….

The Internet and particularly the social networking dimension is delivering services that are being used by corporates that seem to do more to promote the brand of the service provider than the corporate entities themselves. Through a bizarre lapse by the corporate brand Police large organisations are willing divesting credibility and value in third parties such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google etc helping to market and build those third party brands capital value. Enslaved in the true sense of the term ’fashion victim’.

For it is little more than a fashionable trend, a charge led by Generation Y (Millennial Generation, Generation Next or Net Generation). It is well within the capability of these large corporates to deliver these discussion forums for their working groups themselves without prostituting large chunks or corporate brand value through passive promotion of third parties. If AIIM Content management Research is anything to go by with 50% of Corporate’s deploying Microsoft SharePoint, they have the tools, so use them!  In not doing so corporates are laying down the conduits of more dangerous Intellectual Property compromise, as many discussion communities include subjects that would be regarded as commercial sensitive in the old world.

Despite their public facing facade of security, many of these third party services sit out with a trusted control environment with no guarantees as to the security of administrative maintenance access which could see info seepage. Especially if your company is IT related and you are discussing IT centric tit bits that that may be too tempting to backed admins hooked on the Social Media ‘Kudos’ of information scoops. The net is well seeded with examples of individuals tweaking or blogging information that has had its security de-sensitised through use of ‘secure’ social media platforms, whilst still intrinsically being confidential, subject to embargo or under NDA.

Wearing my Systems Auditor (CISA) hat I have been shocked having vetted similar types of services for clients to see the lax security behind the scenes. Not to mention the low price of data storage encouraging information storage, horded and data-mining, to the betterment of the third party. As time passes data’s security risks being eroded or ignored as it moves across media types and especially through merger and acquisitions and what was once sensitive becomes public domain. As we all know once its on the Internet, you will never get it back.

In my blog ‘The Clouds Last Mile’ I highlighted another angle to this pernicious trend. How HP is allowing Google to latch onto its print credibility. In fact Google’s business model is frighteningly parasitic in its underlying practices, gorging itself with data, latched onto the Internet, paying little respect to demands for privacy. Street view having been imposed on us and its free services subject to its analytics of usage and content trends for its own betterment. Even their logo has the resonance of a magnetic limpet mine, albeit fashionably coloured.

Recent research has demonstrated how risky even anonymous data is, in the ability to re-attach such records. Ref: Differential Privacy by Cynthia Dwork, http://research.microsoft.com/apps/pubs/default.aspx?id=74339 

After all with the large amount of information in the new world of business organizations are struggling to drive insights from the complexity. Conglomerating that information and making business decisions based on the information if challenging enough; if only they can find it all and make sense of it.

So next time your company links you to LinkedIn, Facebook etc for a discussion forum on a corporate subject, or maybe not next time, go and have a look at what is going on REAL time in this context and reflect ….. I will be surprised if you don’t find compliance and governance rules have been stretched, if not blatantly broken.

At an individual level, well we don’t all have corporate budgets and IT departments, and after selling your individuals information for a free service is not as compromising as for the corporates is it? …… Caveat venditor!

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