Tim Buckley Owen Mobile mashing means more headaches
Jinfo Blog

Saturday, 15th September 2007 Sign in to MyJinfo or create an account be able to star items Printable version Subscribe via RSS to get updates as soon as Blog items are added

By Tim Buckley Owen


Data mashing offers enormous opportunities for corporate information managers. So recent guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office, called Determining What Is Personal Data http://digbig.com/4tpns should give food for thought. ‘Means of identifying individuals that are feasible and cost-effective, and are therefore likely to be used, will change over time,’ the guidance says. ‘If you decide that the data you hold does not allow the identification of individuals, you should review that decision regularly in light of new technology or security developments or changes to the public availability of certain records.’ So cleverer ways of adding value to data could turn what was previously anonymised material into means of identifying individuals – and that would bring it into the scope of data protection law. It’s a point coincidentally reinforced in an article in Science magazine http://www.cmu.edu/news/archive/2007/August/aug30_duncan.shtml by George Duncan, a professor of statistics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Traditional methods of ‘de-identifying’ US Census records, for example – such as stripping away Social Security numbers or birthdates – are inadequate to safeguard privacy because a person who knows enough about the data pool could use other characteristics to identify individuals, Professor Duncan maintains. For example, he is the only person who holds a PhD in statistics and teaches in Carnegie Mellon's H John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, so any dataset that included that information, even with his name removed, could be used to determine his identity. Although you do admittedly need to know quite a lot about Professor Duncan to crack this particular piece of anonymisation, the scenario translates very easily to, say, a company that holds lots of information on customers and their purchasing habits which it exploits for business development purposes. At which point a further ingredient to bring to the mix is mobile computing. According to research commissioned by networking company Cisco and the National Cyber Security Alliance http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2007/prod_082107b.html employees can be extraordinarily lax about data security when using wireless networks. Nearly three quarters of those surveyed said that they didn’t always consider security threats when working away from the office, and well over a quarter said they ‘hardly ever’ paid attention to proper security behaviour. At least a third of mobile users were prepared to use any available wireless network, in any country, regardless of security considerations, and shrugged off responsibility for their actions as well. ‘It's IT's job, not mine,’ said one. The buck is unlikely to stop with IT for much longer. With the merging of public domain information, internal resources and personal networking, it’s the corporate information manager who’s likely to be in the firing line next.

« Blog

What's new at Jinfo?

Focus on Value Chain

Document the value chain, and transform the way you think about, manage and report on your product portfolio and your information service contributions to your organisation goals.

Focus on Value Chain

Focus on Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is a required process for a healthy information department. It gauges the ability of your services, team, portfolio and overall value to withstand stress.

Focus on Risk Assessment

Sorry, there seems to be a problem with Webinar and Community listings. Please let us know, by email to support@jinfo.com. Thank you.

Benefit from our research

Our proven processes, resources and guidance will help your team make the shift from transaction centre to strategic asset.


Designed around the most common challenges and pain points for time- and resource-strapped information teams

Supercharge remote productivity and value
Holistic content portfolio management
Future-proof your information service
Executive-ready communications


A tailored overview of our research and active discussion with your Jinfo analyst.


Measure your starting point to articulate your strengths and set priorities for future improvements. Assessments gauge risk, capacity, value and more.

Read case studies, and start the conversation:

Consulting benefits

Connect your team with the practical tools, original research and expertise to build and support information strategy in your organisation.

A Jinfo Subscription gives access to all Content (articles, reports, webinars) and Community.

Subscription benefits