Zen Mind, Newb Mind

Being the new-ish addition to the IdPS team is, well, an interesting place to be.  Besides the requisite induction activities (ask me at Catalyst how you pick up the dry cleaning for a team who lives all across the country), I’ve been working with my peers on vastly different pieces of research.  And being curious by nature, I’m loving the chance to not only dig into different topics, but also observe how different people go about the actual process of analyzing a topic or a market.  One technique that Burton Group uses is Contextual Research (CR).  Essentially, the CR process is meant to challenge an analyst’s knowledge of a subject and their associated preconceived notions as to what problems enterprises face and how they are facing them.  It turns seasoned veterans, experts in the field, into beginners again.  This is what practitioners of Zen Buddhism call “beginner’s mind.”

Here’s how it works in a nutshell.  Kevin (seasoned vet) and Ian (newbie) identify a bunch of organizations to talk to.  So far nothing out of the ordinary as compared to our other approaches to research.  That being said, the conversations we have with these organizations is very different from typical research techniques.  Instead of coming to the conversation with a fixed hypothesis that we want to prove out, we come to the conversation with nothing.  No leading questions.  No surveys.  No preconceptions.

In these conversations, we, the analysts, are newbs. We let the people that we are talking to teach us what is important to them about a subject, how they have approached a problem, what wisdom they’d like to share with others.  The analysts furiously take notes, listen, and try not to talk.  Having listened to as many people as we can, we bring the whole team together to find affinities among the statements, identify trends and common techniques, and evaluate the state of a market through the eyes of a customer.

Right now, Kevin and I are in the midst of a role management CR.  Although, we are far too early in the process to comment on what we’ve found, some of the anecdotes we have learned along the way are really fascinating.  Discussions about the needs of the business, efficiencies gained, and methodologies for conducting role analysis – all of these conversations have been grounded firmly in the realities of today’s economy as well as current state of identity management in the enterprise.  You’ll see some of the results of this beginner’s mind approach to analysis at Catalyst this summer.  In fact, the Catalyst workshop on Advanced Role Management is going to be a master-class of a sort, shaped by what Kevin and I learn during this CR process.

Stay tuned for more on our roles CR.  Towards the end of April, I’ll be updating you on how the process has faired.

(Cross-posted from Burton Group’s Identity Blog)

Privacy risks get real

When you think of “the usual” privacy risks you think of things like brand and reputation damage, fines, and increased regulations. You don’t think of jail time for executives. But jail time is exactly what some Google executives face if an Italian prosecutor has his way.

The arrest of Peter Fleischer, Google’s Paris-based Global Privacy Counsel, in Milan on January 23 stems from video that was briefly available on Google’s site in Italy. The video showed high school students bullying a classmate with Down Syndrome. Google took down the video in less than 24 hours after receiving complaints about it. The view of Milan’s public prosecutor is that permitting posting of the video for any period of time was a criminal offense. Fleischer and three other Google employees have been charged with defamation and failure to control personal information.

In our forthcoming report, Bob and I explore the contextual nature of privacy. Google clearly operates in multiple geographic and legal contexts. In the US, Google enjoys protections similar to those afforded “common carriers”. However, in Italy, Google is being treated as a content provider and not a content distributor, and thus is not receiving any such protection.

The contextuality of privacy requires that you evaluate your business from all relevant contexts. In this case, Google may find that it should have looked at its video services from the perspective of an Italian user as well as an Italian regulator. This examination from all relevant contexts would highlight not only conflicts between contexts (someone’s desire to publish a video versus a state’s definition of what constitutes offensive or inappropriate content) but also conflicts between contexts and the organization’s business model. Google’s business of allowing anyone to post a video is in this case colliding with an Italian regulator’s desire to treat Google as a content provider, holding Google to an unanticipated set of requirements.

There’s no way that a small privacy team will be able to know everything about every context the company does business in. To that end, a side effect of doing business in multiple contexts can be a budgetary one. Organizations may need to budget for external legal counsel, counsel that specializes privacy for the contexts they are working in to aid privacy teams in their evaluation of relevant contexts.

We don’t expect criminal penalties for privacy violations to become common, and it’s not at all clear that the action against Google’s executives will be sustained by the Italian courts. But that being said, we do expect privacy regulations to become stricter and subsequent penalties to become more severe. Privacy risks are getting real. Join us at Catalyst this summer and learn how to adapt, and thrive, in the face of this new reality.

(Cross-posted from Burton Group’s Identity Blog.)