Wednesday, 2nd January 2008
Tim Buckley Owen
Take a simple and fairly routine exercise like trawling the web for background on a job applicant. Of course you know that data protection rules apply – but you’d hardly imagine that the whole business might simply be illegal.
Yet that’s the kite that the Guardian newspaper’s technology correspondent Bobbie Johnson flew http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/nov/27/news.socialnetworking when reporting remarks by John Carr, chairman of the UK Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, that employers and education officials could be ‘crossing the line’ when they looked up information about applicants on social networking sites.
‘Minefield’ is the word that springs to mind, and a whole compliance industry is developing to deal with all the ways in which data handlers could now fall foul of the law. It’s likely to be a big issue for infopros in 2008.
‘With so much at stake, corporate compliance is garnering more attention with investors, in the media, in the courts, and in company boardrooms’ says David Curle, author of a recent Outsell report, The Compliance Information Landscape: National and International Trends and Dynamics. According to the $695 report http://www.outsellinc.com/store/products/544 many of the new developments provide ‘fertile ground for compliance publishers and information providers who want to more closely integrate their products and services with new functions and processes’.
It’s no great surprise that anyone trying to make a buck out of compliance is currently attempting to ramp up the corporate anxiety. Kroll Ontrack, part of the global risk consulting company Kroll Inc, has recently released the results of a survey http://www.kroll.com/news/releases/index.aspx?id=18787 showing that many companies are potentially opening themselves up to ‘dire business consequences’ by failing to include data recovery as part of their companies’ compliance policies.
With an increasing number of companies now encouraging blogging as an essential means of engaging with customers, another potential minefield is copyright infringement and defamation. One tool that might help is a recently launched service from the Citizen Media Law Project, a joint venture of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Center for Citizen Media.
Covering 35 states in the US and nine countries, the Legal Threats Database http://www.citmedialaw.org/database catalogues the growing number of lawsuits, cease & desist letters and other legal challenges faced by those engaging in online speech. ‘Unlike established media organizations that have the resources to pursue important reporting in the face of legal challenges, non-traditional journalists are particularly vulnerable to legal threats and coercion,’ it warns.
It’s probably easy to get scared by compliance issues – but infopros need to be aware of what’s going on while avoiding being steamrollered into potentially costly and ill advised purchasing decisions.
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