This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle seven: applying technology thoughtfully while preserving customer data. 


Recently, Chapman University published the results of its survey America’s Top Fears 2015. Respondents were asked their fear level about different factors ranging from crime to disasters to their personal futures. FIVE OF THE TOP TEN THINGS PEOPLE FEAR ARE RELATED TO MIS-USE OF THEIR DATA! That includes cyber-terrorism, corporate tracking of personal information, government tracking of personal information, identity theft and credit card fraud. That’s out of 88 possible things to be afraid of!

There is a tidal wave of automation being applied to data collection and usage practices. I suggest that just because you can do something doesn’t always mean you should. We are approaching a tipping point around the creep factor of having everything that one does be tracked. People are tired of constant advertisements, witnessed by the increased adoption of ad blocking technology, and especially Apple’s recent iOS 9’s robust blocking capability for Safari – which has been heralded as the potential death of online advertising. As ads are blocked, marketers need to find other ways to get their message through, such as direct contact with mobile devices. That will require permission from each user. And that means you have to be delivering a lot of value while also showing some restraint in the level and frequency of contact.

Another interesting wrinkle is the October 6 ruling by the EU Court of Justice that struck down what is called Safe Harbor, a policy that allowed self-certification by U.S. companies to say their data protection standards were sufficient for EU citizens, who are protected by strict privacy law. Israel followed suit on Oct. 20. What happens next is yet to be determined, but everyone is scrambling to figure out how to protect their international business by the end of January grace period.

When practices get abused, people fight back or tune out. It’s human nature. In e-chatting during a webinar this week with its moderator Chris Surdak, a big data expert, (who I thought discussed unbridled capitalism more extremely than anyone I have ever heard), he noted regarding privacy that “The backlash will be epic, if we ever get there.” Hmmm. A thoughtful approach to what you collect, how you collect and use it, how long you keep what you collect, with whom you share it and what they do with it will better serve and protect your business and your brand through changes in customer sentiment and the regulatory environment.

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 6: Comply with All Applicable Laws and Regulations. Then Exceed Them.

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This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle six: comply with all applicable laws and regulations - then exceed them. 


There are a LOT of laws and regulations out there that govern data handling and privacy. They vary according to where you conduct business. The European Union has the strictest set of laws that are built on the principle of human rights. The United States has what’s called a sectoral approach, that is different laws are set for different sectors – like HIPAA for healthcare, Gramm Leach Bliley for Finance, the Cable TV Privacy Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and on. In the US, 47 of 50 states also currently have data breach notification laws, all of them slightly different. Asian countries adopt data protection laws and sectoral laws. Many Latin American countries have constitutional guarantees, data protection laws, and sectoral laws. Yikes! It’s a lot to comply with – and just to keep things fun, laws and regulations are changing and updating all the time.

Realistically, marketers are not going to know every legal requirement that impacts their organization. But you should at least be aware of the basic principles of what’s allowed in the places you do business, then coordinate with Legal (I know, I know!) on how to stay out of trouble. This discovery can also happen through a process called a Privacy Impact Assessment, mentioned in my previous post.

Observing laws and regulations must be standard operating procedure. But just being compliant really isn’t enough to enhance your position in a fickle and frenetic market. Think about it this way – do you want your child to just stay out of trouble at school, or be a leader in the classroom? Where’s the attention going to go? You sure don’t want to stand out in a bad way – like being one of the 256 app providers who violated the privacy terms they contracted with Apple.

Going beyond the legal minimum and making extra effort will help your business differentiate as a trusted source. Simplified privacy policy language will help. Minimizing data collection and retention (yes, you CAN get rid of stuff!) will help. So will being transparent at all times about your practices and behaviors. Use creative ways to tell the story to your customers and stakeholders – through vignettes, through messaging, through customer service scripts – put it out there. Earning trust marks like TRUSTe really sends the message that you take data stewardship seriously.

Your customers expect you to comply with the law. They want to feel like you care and are proactive about protecting their data. I firmly believe that the great majority of people want to do the right thing; it comes back to mindfulness and balance between enthusiastic pursuit of business objectives and a bit of thoughtful restraint.

Brand Reputation in the Era of Data: 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 1: Empower Customer Control
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 2: Be Clear and Accountable
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 3: Do Everything You Can to Protect Customer Data
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 4: Mind Your Partners!
Brand Reputation in the Era of Data – Principle 5: Practice Customer Empathy

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This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle four: protecting data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.


Here is the Fourth of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, based on Dialog’s recent research.

While the last post discussed getting your own house in order around protecting customer data, equally important is protection of that data when it is passed on to others in your value chain.

Consumers regularly agree to share data with a particular organization for immediately known purposes – a purchase transaction, registering for a site or service, downloading an app. There is an abstract understanding that their data is shared. But the specifics of with whom, how and for what are vague to all but the most attentive, usually those who work in a marketing capacity. I recently heard a statistic that a data broker will have about 1500 pieces of information on an average individual! I didn’t know there could be 1500 things about me to be tracked. Who knew I was so interesting?

This vague concept of ‘they have all of my data’ is unsettling, leaving people feeling powerless and hoping that nothing harmful will befall as a result. It is perhaps the greatest area of concern for our study respondents. Legal requirements are normally that the data owner has bottom line responsibility (read that the one who could be sued in a breach), so it behooves you as a data collector to integrate strict data management terms into your third party contracts.

But beyond that, it’s how the data is used and monetized – and we all know this is the holy grail of marketing – that respondents find troubling. One respondent noted that “3rd party access to my search history is completely inappropriate.” Another noted that “if you got my data from somewhere else, tell me where you got it from.” Some of the other concerns expressed included not allowing an individual’s identity or data given for one perceived purpose to be used by entities that have control over other parts of their lives – insurance, credit, employers, housing, civil litigation, healthcare providers, surveillance or profiling, divorce court, political parties, or the news media, except as allowed by law. Data collectors should therefore carefully consider legal requests vs. legal requirements.

One suggestion was to have and observe universal standards on collection and distribution of sensitive and potentially harmful medical and financial information. There are already laws about these domains, but data analytics can get pretty accurate at some of these situations using other non-regulated data.

But some respondents also took a Buyer Beware stance, saying that data voluntarily given and captured through public means is there for the taker, and consumers can always choose not to participate in a transaction. Better to educate people about what is being harvested about them and how it is used. Perhaps improving privacy policies would be a good start. But it can be challenging to get that message across when data is handed off to anonymous 3rd parties whose very existence or purposes are unknown to average people.

With the Internet of Things, this situation will grow exponentially, creating further issues of securing data at the points of collection, transfer and curation x 1000 – and the implications for Big Data crunching that will come from it. Bottom line – mind your partners. Privacy protections need to be contractually obligated with third parties, but prudence dictates you avoid sharing with those who perpetrate the creep factor, especially when contributions can be traced back to you.

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This week on NVTC’s blog, NVTC member company Kathy Stershic of Dialog Communications continues her Brand Reputation in the Era of Data series by sharing principle two: be clear and accountable.


Here is the second of 8 Principles for Responsible Data Stewardship That Won’t Kill Your Customer Relationships, based on Dialog’s recent research.

For starters, how many times have you actually read the whole privacy notice of a vendor, financial institution, or app you put on a mobile device? Ever? The reality is that almost no one reads them. They’re generally long, filled with legal jargon, and published in tiny, hard to read font. They all vary according to applicable law. They can be hard to find on web sites. The ‘opt out’ link is even harder to find.

Not reading them is no excuse for consumers who willingly enter a business relationship to claim ignorance or victimhood – or is it? When you accept a service, you are bound by the terms. But it is widely understood that privacy notices are very challenging for average people. There is a legal concept of responsible use of personal data that at least one legal expert I’ve heard speak says the U.S. Congress knows is going to need to be legislated. But who knows when that will be?

It is safe to say that for now that privacy notices are generally not working as they should. One respondent in Dialog’s recent study (a polished professional in a responsible job) reacted passionately with ‘privacy policies stink!’ as his gut opinion on this issue. So how can they be made better? And why should marketers even care?

The privacy notice presented to your customers is a legal covenant made with them. It establishes a bond that is integral to your brand reputation. But that doesn’t mean it has to read like a dry legal brief. Done right, it should reflect your organization’s values, its attitude toward customers and its interest in helping them understand terms of the business relationship – simply, clearly and transparently.

While privacy notices (also called statements and policies) must be developed and approved by those with legal and privacy expertise, Marketing has the communication expertise to simplify the language, put a customer advocate hat on, and collaborate with the legal team to make this customer-facing document as clear and friendly as it can be. Put it in words that read like how people talk. Make the mutual responsibilities clear and transparent. Spell out ‘what this means for us’, ‘what this means for you’, and what actionable options people have to empower control.

Make the notice readily accessible. Some of Dialog’s study respondents even suggested reminding them of the covenant every time they interact with a site or an app. Right up front. Plainly. And if a policy changes, what has changed should be immediately pointed out, allowing customers to opt out of the new terms on the spot. (By the way, changes should never be made retroactive, but that’s for another discussion).

Then consumers – read them! As a few of Dialog’s respondents willingly owned, users have responsibility in this game. You get something for what you give up – money or information. But it’s a choice. You can always choose not to use an app or a service. Last year, when Facebook spun off Messenger, I went to add it on my smartphone to see a pending message. But then I read the notice of what I would be agreeing to in doing so – giving Facebook access to all of my non-Messenger text messages! (Why do they need that? How many of you saw that?) Messenger did not get added to my phone, and I still manage to communicate with my loved ones anyway.

Beyond your external notice, make sure you have clear internal privacy policies. Then make sure everyone in your business is trained on them. Remind employees often to act with responsibility and accountability. And apply those policies consistently. Breaking the established customer bond is a quick way to kill trust and damage your brand. Clarity and accountability will strengthen it.

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Information Stewardship: Our Role in the 21st Century

February 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)
Today on NVTC’s blog, guest blogger Sean Tibbetts of member company Cyber Timez Inc. discusses our roles as information stewards of the 21st century and our responsibility to ensure that data is used efficiently, accurately, positively and safely.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Sean Tibbett

Sean Tibbetts

Information Technology has become a pervasive force at all levels of organizations whether their focus is government, business, recreation, education or a combination of them all. Device convergence has resulted in the technology utopian goal of constantly connected devices in the hands of data consumers providing access to information that has never been easier. The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility” has never been more true than in our modern, connected culture. Information is power and the more information for which we are responsible the more power we directly or indirectly inherit. As the Information Stewards of the 21st century it is our primary responsibility to ensure this data is used efficiently and accurately for the betterment of those who both give and receive the information we provide while avoiding causing harm to those that provide that data to us.

Data Driven Decision Making

Data driven decision making is key to the success or failure of any technology connected effort. The Internet may be the greatest tool ever released on mankind for “leveling the playing field” when it comes to access to pertinent data for decision making processes. Organizations from a one man jack-of-all-trades to companies employing tens of thousands of people all require access to data to determine which efforts are working well versus areas needing further scrutiny. As we review the type and content of the data they need it becomes clear that the requirements of any organization regardless of size tend to be the same: accurate data resulting in actionable information. Most organizations recognize that they need access to information about the client base they serve. This information can be categorized into three repeatable, programmable and usable data silos resulting in tools better enabling decision makers to reach organizationally positive conclusions.

Usage Data

The first and probably most obvious data silo is usage data. Whether tracking website views or app taps every organization needs to know how their information is accessed and used. Usage data may be as simple as how many times a page was loaded to a more complex model of how many times a page was loaded by operating system and browser sorted by time on site from specific referrers. Suddenly determining what should be “above the fold” on that simple web page isn’t so simple. Luckily for technology solutions of any size there are a myriad of tools available both free and for a fee that provide this type information in multiple forms from simple graphs to complex data slices represented with exportable pivot tables. Using this data to help guide our decision making process ensures users get the information they need.

Location Data

The second largest data silo used for decision making tends to be based on location data. Location data can vary from where a user is standing in a store aisle using Bluetooth beacons to an approximation of what country they are in based on IP address. Understanding where a user is physically combined with the how they use your tool provides greater insight into what type of data should be delivered to them at the appropriate place. If we know the country in which the user is in then our information needs to be translated to the appropriate language with useful local references. While using location data can be extremely valuable for technologies such as push notifications for sales at a nearby retail outlet, technologists also need to always keep in mind the privacy concerns and rights of their users. Using location and usage data together help guide our decision making process to ensure users get information they need in the place they need it most.

User Demographics

The third, and likely most valuable, data silo is user demographic information. Demographics can be as simple as knowing a user’s gender or as complex as gender based purchasing decisions sliced by median income in a given zip code. User demographics are a powerful decision making tool, but must be managed efficiently. While combining web search histories with current location data and gender information to push advertisements for certain products may be a good thing; it could also be very damaging if a child is using the device and suddenly gets an advertisement for lingerie because they walked past the ladies section of the store. Understanding the demographics of whom the current user is is critical and key to any information presentation model. Using demographic, location and usage data together help guide our decision making process to ensure the right users get the right information in the right place.

Conclusion

All of this data collection leads us to one conclusion: accurate data is absolutely necessary for decision making. We stand on the greatness built by the generations before us. They gave us the Internet, TCP/IP stack and the World Wide Web to gather and exchange information. As the Information Stewards of the 21st century it is our job to ensure that these tools are used to provide the best user experience possible by combining the most accurate data available in a manner that results in the ultimate goal of all data collection: actionable information. Technologists today should have their own Hippocratic Oath and take it to heart: I will collect and provide data for the good of my users according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.


About the Author
Sean Tibbetts is the CEO and co-founder of Cyber Timez Inc. His information technology career spans over 20 years beginning as an owner/operator of a classic dial-up bulletin board system and as a contributor to multiple open source projects in the early nineties. He has participated on and led teams to design, develop and implement case management systems, the world’s fastest OCR and data entry engines and health care data mining systems. His current focus is on mobile technologies with a strong focus on wearable devices and the Internet of Things.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. This week, NVTC member company Carpathia discusses the upcoming year, predicting a transformative 2015 for government agencies and enterprises.


At the start of a new year we have the opportunity to look ahead and think about what trends will likely shape the coming months. 2015 is poised to be transformative for government agencies and enterprises, as an increasing number of organizations look to modernize their computing environments, expand their focus on secure and compliant hosting, and meet the growing demands of an increasingly mobile workforce. What trends will we see emerge this year?

Here are the top seven predictions we see for 2015:

  1. Hybrid Cloud Grows Up and “Gets Real” – Out of the buzz created by incredibly rapid IT technology advancements, the industry will finally emerge with a firm understanding of the gamut of “hybrid” options thanks to best practices derived from real-world cloud deployments.
  1. Compliance’s Operational Impacts Will Continue To Expand – Are your prepared to pass that next audit? After years of struggling with time-consuming and complex compliance processes and procedures, enterprises, agencies, and auditors alike will be even busier! But there is some light at the end of the tunnel – and it comes in the form of automation.
  1. Privacy Will Be Everywhere – Whether it’s electronic protected health information (ePHI) driven by ACA or information traveling between public and private cloud environments, harnessing and protecting data will be a focal point of every government and enterprise IT initiative.
  1. Agencies Get Cozier With Public Cloud – Government cloud computing adoption will hit its stride. Agencies will finally start moving a great number of workloads (and even some mission-critical ones) into the public cloud with FedRAMP authorized providers.
  1. Verticalized Cloud Communities Become the Next Boomtowns – There’s no one-size-fits all when it comes to cloud. As a result, industries with common compliance standards, such as healthcare, will turn to cloud service providers that can act as community organizers or hubs. In 2015, we’ll see the increasing emergence of vertical-centric cloud communities that can effectively cater to industry-specific needs and requirements.
  1. New Tools Will Enhance Infrastructure and Application Performance – Spurred on by rapid software development, software-defined networks, and faster hardware technology, rapid maturation of industry tools and services will help organizations enhance the performance of IaaS, public, private and hybrid cloud solutions in the coming year. Expect affordable resources that will extract even more value in the form of greater flexibility, security and self-service, alongside service-focused offerings from providers.
  1. Real-time Data-Centric Decisions Are the New Norm – In 2015, we’ll see IT-enabled data-centric decisions across platforms become common practice for many organizations. Deeper insight into usage patterns and greater visibility into network operations and performance across computing infrastructure will allow organizations to make better-informed decisions about workload allocations and respond faster to enterprise nee

Do you agree with Carpathia’s predictions? Let them know on Facebook or Twitter. In addition, follow NVTC on Facebook and Twitter! We would love to hear your thoughts on what trends will be game-changers in 2015.

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