Trends in Security: The Transparent World–When Nothing is Secret

Organizations looking to protect confidential data will have to reconsider standard practices around security.

by Sten Vesterli

January 2014

In 2014, there will be more active mobile phone subscriptions that people in the world—about 7.3 billion. Most mobile phones have cameras, so you can be pretty sure that someone who can take a picture is always around. And this is only the beginning. Google Glass will become available to the general public in 2014, allowing anybody to take a picture any time. And specialized “lifelogging” cameras such as the Narrative Clip, which automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds, will also start shipping in 2014.

Some thinking required

Organizations with confidential data have always used technical measures to prevent information from being smuggled out. Limiting internet access can prevent users from unthinkingly placing a confidential document in Dropbox, and disabling USB ports prevents users from copying a document in order to continue working on it on their home laptop. But how do you protect your information when the mere act of showing it to employees or contractors also risks that they might accidentally record it with their lifelogging camera or Google Glass?

Accidental capture of confidential information challenges classic perimeter security thinking. In this approach, you build one high wall around your entire organization in order to prevent anything from leaking out. This is clearly not sufficient when the user might be unwittingly carrying confidential information out on a camera or other recording device. With the amount of recording power your average user will be carrying, you must educate your users and cannot rely on technical countermeasures alone.

The speed of change that technology brings means that every organization will face unprecedented transparency within the next few years.”
The power of happiness

Social media already allows disgruntled customers to vent their frustration at sub-standard products or services. Text-based diatribes are rarely spread widely, but videos tend to “go viral” and achieve wide distribution much more often. This means that any interaction with a surly employee of your organization, shenanigans in your back office, or a closed-door rant by a manager can turn into next week’s YouTube hit.

Organizations have always been saying, with various degrees of sincerity, that their employees are very important to them. But in the new world where everything is recorded, every employee has dramatically increased potential to damage your brand.

There is no way you can use traditional supervision to ensure that every employee in every location always acts as prescribed in the employee handbook. The only solution in the transparent world is to find new ways to instill the company’s values in every employee. Leading organizations are using internal social media to promote a sense of community and share best practices on handling challenging situations. On the cutting edge of modern leadership, you even find reward systems where acknowledgement of good work doesn’t necessarily come as a pat on the shoulder from a supervisor, but as a “Like” from a colleague or customer.

Thought LeaderVesterli-headshot

Sten Vesterli is an Oracle Applications User Experience Advocate and an Oracle ACE Director.

Embrace the future

Ubiquitous cameras are already changing relationships. A police force started issuing always-on cameras to every officer and found complaints over police behavior down by 75 percent.

Transparency has been a force for good during all of human history, and this period in time is no different. But the speed of change that technology brings means that every organization will face unprecedented transparency within the next few years.

The only way to face this challenge is by building a good relationship between company and employee. If your organization is still depending on command and control structures, where some supervisor is watching the employees, you will need to change. Only when the attitudes of the employees are aligned with your company goals can you be sure that they will do the right thing.

And remember: the world will be watching.

Photography by Shutterstock