29 September 2006

Digital Intelligence: Pervasive Across Our Lives...

We initially wrote about the brewing Corporate Governance affair at HP to highlight that the telecom companies should be the ones getting more scrutiny. What continues to amaze us after watching all seven hours of testimony yesterday on C-SPAN Channel three is the naivete of what "information" is for sale today.

Ms. Dunn, former Chair of the HP Board has no idea what the spectrum of techniques and tools that are utilized to collect relevant information on a daily basis. In a digital world, monitoring for abnormalities and using surveillance is a standard practice to keep our institutions safe and secure. The same reason you rely on our Armed Forces and Law Enforcement is the same reason you hire them to staff the ranks of your corporate security and information assurance departments. Peace of mind.

Under questioning, Dunn was asked why she didn't recognize that investigators would have to turn to dubious means to get personal phone records. Dunn said she relied on the advice of others, including HP's outside investigator, Ron DeLia.

Dunn testifies:
"I did not know where this information could be found publicly, but I was aware that the kinds of investigations done by Mr. DeLia had previously been based solely on publicly available information," Dunn said. "I took the understanding without any question, and I understand why that might seem strange today, knowing what I know now."

Dunn was questioned by the committee, as were HP's outside lawyer Larry Sonsini and HP IT security worker Fred Adler. A number of other former HP employees and contractors refused to testify earlier Thursday, invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination."

Think about the information that is being collected today in your own marketing department. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year with marketing consultants, advertising and branding agencies across the Global 500 on demographics, psychographics, pay per click, adwords, and the list goes on. Paying for performance means that you have to measure who, where and when people see, hear or open your marketing messages. The technologies in use today can tell you who opened the e-mail, where they are located when they open it and if they forwarded it to anyone else. You want to know how many people are listening to a certain radio station at the intersection of the 495 and the GW Parkway at 7:30AM? You want to know the phone number and identity of everyone that called your 800 number yesterday? You want to know where my vehicle is located at any time within a few meters? This is nothing new.

As our legislators try to figure out what should be unlawful when it comes to collecting information, they should first realize how many industries and companies that may be impacted by their decisions. And I know they do. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) was a knee jerk reaction to Enron. Let's just hope that we don't have another strait jacket put on the private sector as a result of Hewlett-Packard's public scandal.

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