Weekly Roundup: A Mobile App, Cyber Security, the Government, and Social Media

May 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm Leave a comment

By Mary Ludloff

Happy Friday! It’s been another very busy week at PatternBuilders (speaking at conferences, working on the Ebook, and finalizing the beta release of our Social Media Analytics solution) and it appears to be a busy week in media-land as well. So, in case you missed them, I thought I’d post about some of the more interesting stories that came across my Twitter feed, Google alerts, and email updates. So on with the post!

A Mobile App that I “Get”

Call me a fuddy-duddy if you like, but I use my smartphone for email, texting, and talking. I do not search for stuff, access Google maps, or buy anything.

Now, as you all are very much aware, I view my smartphone as the “biggest” data security risk there is (see my previous posts on mobile security and mobile applications) and the best way to lower that risk (for me) is to keep the number of apps down to a minimum (no Angry Birds on my phone). That being said, I finally came across an app that I “get.” It’s called Park Circa and it hooks up the “owners” and “renters” of private parking spaces in San Francisco.

The idea was ingenious: lots of prime unused parking spaces in apartment lots, carports, and private driveways while the owners were out for the day (or however long) and lots of commuters looking for a place to park their cars while they “take” a meeting (standard VC maneuver), “do” lunch, you get my drift. So, entrepreneurs Chad Meyer and Omid Saadati decided to develop an application that connected the parking space owners with the renters. Owners simply sign up to be included and set an hourly rate and then the renters can view all the available spaces in a given area and rent a space for a specific amount of time. The renters check in and out by phone (when they reserve and then leave the space) and Parking Circa transfers the “payment” to the owner after taking a 25% cut. Brilliant. And if I were still commuting to San Francisco on a daily basis, this app would be loaded on my phone!

Cyber Security is Big Business

We’ve posted quite a bit on data security and data privacy (just search on their respective tags to see all our posts) but we usually do so from the point of view of the consumer (since we’re consumers too and are as concerned as everyone else about what’s happening to, and with, our data). However, it’s important to note that organizations of all sizes are heavily investing in data security and privacy policies and infrastructure and working with privacy pros to:

“… ensure that, as part of their post-breach response plans, they’re actually talking to regulators, consumers, congressmen and sometimes class-action lawyers about what went wrong, to [communicate] that they’ve got plans in place to mitigate the amount of harm that occurs when a breach happens.”

In a recent interview with Tom Field, Trevor Hughes, head of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (yes, there’s an association), talks about the top privacy issues that recent breaches (like Sony and Epsilon) have uncovered, the state of regulatory and legislative privacy and security issues, and what some of the “best-in-class” organizations are doing to protect their data.

And that’s not the only thing these organizations are worried about. In case you haven’t heard, there is a new category of cyber crime that is:

“… stealthier and potentially more harmful than the massive data breaches that were front-page news a few years ago. When hackers steal customer data, they do it quickly and move on, leaving companies with the administrative hassle of notifying customers. But when intruders want to steal a company’s secrets, they settle in for the long haul, establishing a foothold within a company’s network and growing it, undetected, over time. These incidents, known as advanced persistent threats, or APTs, slowly rob companies of their most valuable information. They are not the work of hackers, but of tenacious, well-funded professionals focused on espionage.”

Here’s an interesting statistic from the article to chew on: companies with a chief information security officer (or equivalent title) experience far lower data breach costs ($157 per record) than companies without strategic security leadership ($236 per record). Hmm… perhaps we should all be reviewing the management teams of companies that collect and use our personal data!

Government Drops the Ball on Big Data, Our Politicians Investment Strategies, and a New Definition for Rent

Okay, in case you missed it, Data.gov’s budget was slashed by 75% last month. While the site will remain open, “there will be no enhancements or other development to address needs for improvement.” This is certainly a blow to the big data community and comes at a time when the private sector is realizing the valuable potential of big data and analytics (see my post on the McKinsey study).

And talking about that value, you might have missed my favorite article of the week. That would be the Huffington Post’s article on how “Members of Congress Get Abnormally High Returns From Their Stocks.” Yep, four university researchers examined 16,000 common stock transactions made by 300 House representatives from 1985 to 2001 and found “significant positive abnormal results,” beating the market by 6% annually. It gets even better. A study by the same researchers on senators found that they beat the market by almost 12%, a number that the researchers considered “both economically large and statistically significant.” Go here for the representatives’ study and here for the senators’ study and the researchers’ conclusions:

“… despite the fact that the Senators have a definite informational advantage over other investors this type of investing does not constitute any illegal activity since current laws do not prohibit Senators from trading stock on the basis of information acquired in the course of performing their normal Senatorial functions… Political power confers many benefits. Among those are privileged access to information, the power to influence legislation and the power to influence the application of regulatory jurisdiction by administrative agencies. It therefore makes sense that politicians would use such powers for personal gain and also that they compete for any rents that arise from such influence. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that such rents do indeed exist.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time with the idea that consistently outperforming the stock market due to “privileged access to information” should be a political benefit. In my mind, it is perilously close to something else. I am sure that you can guess what the something else is!

Best Social Media Rant and the Air Force’s Blogging Guidelines

Now, I have posted quite a bit (search on social media tag for all posts) on social media and why I embrace it. That being said, Peter Shankman’s article on “Why I Will Never, Ever, Hire A Social Media Expert” seems to have struck a nerve with many (read the comments for some fun). In the “wish I said it department,” here’s my favorite quote:

“Being an expert in social media is like being an expert at taking the bread out of the refrigerator. You might be the best bread-taker-outer in the world, but you know what? The goal is to make an amazing sandwich, and you can’t do that if all you’ve done in your life is taken the bread out of the fridge.”

Look, Shankman’s point is this: social media is a marketing tool, just like other marketing tools, but the marketing fundamentals still apply if you want to create lasting value. I happen to agree with him and find it somewhat disturbing that many of my job hunting marketing colleagues (with broad and deep marketing experience across a number of disciplines) are being rejected for positions due to their (and I quote) “lack of deep social media skills.” My advice to anyone looking to hire marketing people is this: look for content creators, people who understand how and what to message as well as the different ways in which the message should be delivered across the marketing channels. A person with this skillset can learn how to use “new tools” but someone who just knows how to use a tool provides little value in the long term.

And finally a hat tip to the Air Force for its fantabulous Rules of Engagement for Blogging chart! I am quite often asked about “how one should go about creating blogging guidelines” and this chart is the best example I’ve ever come across—it’s visual, easy-to-follow, and clear and concise while at the same time, allowing folks to retain their own voices.  (Full disclosure: I am creating something “very similar” and I am sure that the Air Force won’t mind!)

Entry filed under: Data, General Analytics, General Business, Technology. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

Reflections on pii2011 and MongoSF and a Shout Out to Rackspace for Great Customer Service Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble

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