Wednesday, 15th December 2010
Tim Buckley Owen
American diplomats may have been the main target of the recent disclosures from WikiLeaks. But it has had corporations in its sights before, and the current furore over its revelations raises plenty of issues for enterprise information management.
‘Be afraid’ is the Economist magazine’s advice to business, warning companies that they must ‘adapt to a world where no secret is safe’. The explosion in the availability of corporate data has also made companies more vulnerable, it warns (http://digbig.com/5bdcgh).
This isn’t an empty threat; the Economist article quotes a legal adviser at data management specialist Kroll Ontrack who says that the devices employees increasingly bring to work can store ‘several tonnes of paper’. And in its fourth Annual Electronically Stored Information Trends Report, Kroll goes on to warn that many companies simply aren’t sufficiently prepared for it.
More companies may be creating ESI disclosure strategies, but fewer than half seem to have tested them and know whether they will work, the Kroll survey finds. What’s more, there’s actually been a decline in the number of companies that have updated their policies to address social networking.
Cloud computing may have brought cost savings and ‘business agility’ – but it has also introduced a raft of new legal risks, the report continues. Industry best practice suggests that policy updates are needed every six months to keep up with the increasing use of new communication channels, mobile devices and storage technologies (http://digbig.com/5bdcgj).
The war between the establishment and WikiLeaks was itself carried into the cloud after Amazon Web Services refused to continue helping out with extra capacity when demand for access to the diplomatic documents crashed the leaker’s servers (see http://www.vivavip.com/go/e24000 for background on Amazon’s service). The anti-censorship organisation Article 19 expressed concern at alleged pressure exerted by government on internet companies over WikiLeaks (http://digbig.com/5bdcgk) – and in an article in PC World, Keir Thomas went so far as to wonder whether moving wholesale into the cloud was a good idea if cloud providers started blocking what they deemed to be ‘objectionable’ material (http://digbig.com/5bdcgm).
WikiLeaks may have been set up originally to expose governments – but as LiveWire commented when the organisation was first established back in 2007, it clearly saw corporate whistleblowers as a rich source of intelligence as well (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e3). So indeed it has proved, with high profile cases involving allegations of irregular transactions by the Swiss Bank Julius Baer (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e4933) and toxic waste dumping on the Ivory Coast by the oil trading firm Trafigura (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e25813) both of which litigation failed to suppress.
So the danger now is of a double whammy – companies failing to get to grips with the vulnerability of their information just as the potential number of leak outlets starts to proliferate.
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