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The Consumerized Mind

Consumerization in the workplace is about more than technology, where Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), cloud computing, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) are among the trends that have forced IT departments and compliance officers to rethink the way they protect corporate intellectual property. Consumerization is also an attitude that pervades the corporate landscape. Combined with mobile computing, virtual teaming, and collaboration, the consumerized corporate mindset has added to the risk of data breach and compromised IP through impulse sharing.

The level to which we’ve become jaded to the frequency and volume of our social media sharing in particular was illustrated by the recent revelation of a new data gathering and analysis tool by defense industry stalwart Raytheon called Rapid Information Overlay Technology, also known as RIOT.

As this article from the Atlantic Wire illustrates, RIOT is able to gather and compile an accurate profile of an individual, based on information made publicly available through a patchwork of social media services, within minutes. Spyware in the truest sense, RIOT uses big data analytics to understand who you are, what you look like, where you live, who you know, where you work, and your pattern of comings and goings.

Overzealous social sharing in our private lives has become second nature. It’s how we connect and keep in touch with friends, family, and colleagues in the digital age. We build networks on Facebook and LinkedIn; we communicate throughout the day via Twitter and Foursquare; we offer images of who we are through Pinterest, Flickr, and Instagram; and we broadcast details of our personalities through Yelp, and Amazon, and a thousand other buttons that encourage us to proudly tell the world, “this is who I am!”

With the boundaries between our personal and professional lives growing increasingly blurry, it stands to reason that the encouragement to share details of the former will insidiously spill over into the latter. A restaurant review becomes a confidential internal memo; a photo from girls’ night out becomes a product schematic; a tweet about the game becomes a new business proposal.

Because we see these threats to data integrity as rooted in technology, our instinct is to adopt solutions that are likewise rooted in technology and to impose policies that seek to dictate conduct. But while technology and policy are important, their use must be simple, transparent, and – through education and awareness programs – become as natural as our learned behaviors.

Only when the use of tools to protect IP and copyrights are as much a part of the consumerized corporate mind as Twitter, can we hope to gain ground in the fight to protect our valuable information.

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