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Knowledge Professionals Care About Your Data Security

computer and screen shown with lock and key and other data security elements

Valuing data, and its appropriate security, is nothing new for Knowledge and IT professionals. Softlink IC is deeply aware of the focus these professionals have, not only curating valid, verifiable information, but protecting sensitive data from those who would use it for questionable purposes. Many information professionals understand there is a growing fear among their users about their own personal data. Who is accessing it? For what purpose?

For information professionals, their choice of a library management software like Liberty is determined by the need to manage and secure the data for which they are responsible. The information world through which knowledge professionals and IT staff must navigate is full of challenges.

We Can Find Information for “Free”

Networking platforms such as Facebook do not currently charge a “joining” fee. Public search engines are free to use, but those who use them must contend with targeted ads based on their previous searches. Search results include incorrect or deliberately biased information. But not only that! The information sought on sites by searchers can be accessed and monetized by businesses.

In late 2017, Kevin Keith asked a group of young people whether they trusted Facebook, Google, or the government. He also asked whether they had heard of Cambridge Analytica. Most, it seemed, had not. When he explained what Cambridge Analytica does, the attendees reacted with alarm.

The Cambridge Analytica’s data research scandal published by major news outlets in mid-March 2018 is clear evidence there is a very high cost to “free” usage. Cambridge Analytica is not the only company using personal data for financial gain and political advantage.

The scale of the trade-off for those using “free” social networking and public search engines is becoming clear. It is compounding people’s growing fear of data security. Aviv Ovadya and his predictions of the proliferation of “fake news” and data manipulation discussed here, was an early warning. The potential for unscrupulous use of personal data is now a major cause for concern for many.

Knowledge professionals are keenly aware of the potential danger of unauthorized access to the sensitive data under their management. They constantly monitor the technology tools they use to counter threats.

Digital Platforms and the Fake News Crisis?

Manipulation of search results is well recognized these days and fake news is not a new phenomenon. What is different is its reach and impact. It is far greater in the digital age. Ovadya not only predicted a fake news crisis prior to the 2016 US elections, he argued “Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable – to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments – so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact”.

The problem of how to identify fake news is not straightforward. There are those who argue that facts are dependent on the reader’s worldview or belief system. However, that is a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say, for information professionals, valid, verifiable information and data security is not based on a worldview. Moreover, their users are not a product, they are seekers of information services.

Ovadya identifies some technology products poised to muddy the waters between what is fake, and what is real and available to hostile actors. However, Keith argues technology is not the problem. He contends governments should put in place regulations that keep up with the technology.

In 2011, a Wired article identified that social media platform users are the product, not the customer. Over subsequent years that has proved to be true. While governments have been aware of the problem of data security, they argue it is difficult to keep up with changes in technology.

Whatever the reason, governments have been slow or reluctant to formulate strong policies regarding the use of personal data. For many, personal data is a money-making proposition. It is not for knowledge workers in libraries of any type!

Keith debunks the excuse that keeping up is difficult. He uses the example of the technological advances that saw the rapid transformation of transport in the early 20th century. The change from horse and carriage to the automobile, for example, saw governments swiftly apply rules and regulations. He contends that in this digital age there is a need for a new social contract to protect data from those who would use it as a commodity. That is a government responsibility. Fortunately, for the hundreds of millions of library users, library staff consider data security of the utmost importance.

Securing data is a “horses for courses” issue for knowledge management staff. They carefully consider the type of data they manage, and whether it is a common good or not. For example, much of the internally generated data legal library staff manage – sensitive client data, cases, and reports – has little common good application. Most of the data they manage is therefore tightly secured.

For those working in the health space, securing personal patient data is also paramount. However, statistical or research information that can be garnered from health records has a common good. The balancing act for health librarians, medical, and IT staff is to ensure sensitive data and personal details are well secured while making other data available.

With some exceptions, for example, health information and research program results are a common good and should be accessible. Nonetheless this information is also subject to rules and regulations regarding its use.

Contracts to Manage Data

Knowledge managers, librarians, and IT staff have long established and applied “contracts” to the data they collate, organize, and manage. Applying those “contracts” has always been an ongoing focus. Copyright laws manage information usage. Applying up-to-date security to their systems ensures sensitive and personal data is secured according to their requirements. Library and IT staff are aware of how information is vulnerable to misuse. This awareness guides how they manage and protect data under their custodianship.

The “contracts” are not static. They are subject to changes as applicable. Many of those rules are a legal or business requirement. For knowledge managers, research and IT staff, data in all its variations is something to be valued and shared, or secured as the case may be. They monitor new software, be it library management systems or security software. Even in difficult financial times, they keep on top of hardware that will keep up with software and data storage needs.

As Kevin Keith argued, it is time for everyone to view data as something valuable and “only a new social contract that encompasses digital will enable us to fulfil its potential and expand the definition of us, strengthen democracy, and ultimately improve lives”. Knowledge managers and library staff have always known that.

If you’d like to know how Liberty will help you and your staff mange your curated data and secure sensitive data, contact us or click here to book a demonstration. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.