Last week I was actually participating in a customer related event where we were having some really good discussions around the topic of social computing within the enterprise and, in particular, with one of the most prominent inhibitors that comes along, time and time again, when talking about adoption of these social networking tools behind the firewall: security. Yes, indeed, that one! How many times has it come out in your day to day conversations as a social software evangelist? I bet far too many! And yet, the answer seems to be relatively easy, don’t you think? Security hasn’t got much to do with the tools (Even though they seriously help out!); it’s a human trait. Security starts within the individual first and foremost. Mostly, because in the vast majority of cases related to security concerns technology is not even there!
Remember the blog post that I put together over here, a couple of months back, under the title New Technology – The Threat to Our Corporate Information, where I was referencing a wonderfully hilarious and witty slide deck put together by Norman Lamont on the silliness of security and that perhaps highlighted quite nicely how far we have taken the subject to even verge on the ridiculous? Well, today I have got something better to share with you folks…
Something I wish I had last week, when I was interacting, along with a few other colleagues, with that particular customer answering that question on the security concerns / issues behind social networking tools. I think we did pretty good though. At least, the conversations seemed to have hinted folks were comfortable addressing those concerns around security in a reasonable manner, highlighting how in most cases the security risks, or, better said, the perceived risks, are there because perhaps we don’t seem to trust all of these social tools that much, when in reality it’s the other way around. It’s about how much a business trusts their knowledge workforce to make a responsible use of all of these social tools. Something that happens most of the times, but which, despite that fact, people keep questioning it over and over again.
Well, what would happen if it weren’t down to the tools we use, but the attitude we have about them and the world around us? What if we, knowledge workers, can’t care less whether to share that rather sensitive information across with other parties, or not, because we think we just know better? What if it is just ourselves the ones being irresponsible with the usage of the technology around us and how we interact with it? Don’t you think that this wouldn’t have anything to do with those perceived risks when making extensive use of social networking tools?
I think so! Specially, after reading one of the most recent blog posts from one of my all time favourite KM, sense making and social computing bloggers: Dave Snowden. If you have got a moment, because that’s exactly what is going to take you, take a look and read “One wonders …“; it’s one of those rather short blog posts that Dave puts together every now and then, but whose very few lines are so thought-provoking and mind-blowing that one really wonders … how can *that* happen?
For the sake of breaking it through and share a tease or two with you, check out the first few lines from Dave’s post to see what I mean. It’s just priceless! It’s just one of those arguments that you will be capable of bringing up time and time again when rebutting the security question in a social networking context. It won’t fail. Believe me. More than anything else because it will highlight, pretty much, how, once again, it’s not down to the tools we use, but more the behaviours and working styles we exhibit ourselves that are the ones that can surely get us in trouble, not just knowledge workers, but businesses altogether!
Have a look into those first few lines I mentioned above, to see what I mean:
“So I am sitting in the lounge at Toronto airport waiting for a flight to Washington. Behind me a fellow passenger is phoning around her credit card companies to tell them she is going to the US and will use her credit cards. In each case she is listed her full number, data of birth and all the normal identification material. Were I so inclined this could be very useful information. To my right an Executive from a major consultancy firm is writing in plain view a proposal which includes layoff plans for a US corporation. I’ve also in the last hour overheard conversations relating to promotions, sales, deals etc. etc. […]“
Goodness!! I could not believe it myself when I was reading through the blog post (Do read the rest of it, because it’s just as entertaining!). If you read it carefully, you will see how there isn’t a SINGLE mention on the usage of social software tools as potential threat or security risk by promoting a specific set of activities and behaviours (i.e. Openness, transparency and publicness, to name a few! ). Low and behold it’s just highlighting how plenty of our daily routines (Phone calls, discussions, conversations, drafting documents, etc. etc.) do surely put us at risk, perceived or not!, because we just feel there is no-one else around us and therefore we can do everything we want. Well, that may well not be the case anymore!
Quite the opposite! If social networking is going to do something really useful for us all, it’s going to be one single key element: to highlight, and to constantly remind us, that we are not alone. That there are plenty of people out there who are actively watching, listening and taking notice of what we do; over and over again! And as such we do have to start building further on that sense of co-responsibility with our company to do the right thing! Which, I know, most folks would probably say it is all down to common sense, right? Well, Dave’s article seems to worryingly indicate quite the opposite!
I am not sure what you folks would think, but it’s blog posts like that one that are a clear reminder to us all of how much work there is still ahead for all of us, not just the social software evangelists out there, but every single knowledge worker out there who needs to keep educating their peers how security is a personal thing, a personal trait that everyone needs to nurture and treasure accordingly. That everyone needs to constantly work on realising how, after all, we are not that alone out there. Realising how, before we all notice, there is always going to be someone out there who, willingly or unwillingly, is going to be listening to our conversations and perhaps they shouldn’t in the first place. Perhaps they should remain what they were always supposed to be: private and secured!
And, for once, social networking didn’t have anything to do with it. Oh, did it? Well, perhaps it has got plenty to do with it!; after all, don’t social software tools encourage us all to listen to what’s happening out there? Maybe they will also help us understand how we can mitigate those perceived risks by having each and everyone of us walking the talk, i.e. behaving responsively with the information and knowledge that we are exposed to, and share across accordingly, day in day out, for that matter… You wouldn’t want a total stranger to know, coming out right out of your mouth!, your full credit card number, your date of birth and any other kind of identification material, right?
Neither would I! It seems it’s all about common sense eventually, is it? You decide. It’s your choice.
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