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Privacy, data security, digital identity – walled security gardens are becoming increasingly important tools for organisations looking to embed robust security says Aaron Thornton, CSO at Turrito Networks  

Gartner has long discussed the importance of walled gardens. High virtual walls built by digital and driven by growing concerns around data, privacy, regulation and identity. Gartner is looking at marketing and advertising, particularly with regards to the giants of Facebook, Google and Amazon. Walled platforms that allow for marketers to meet the needs of customers but that put data privacy at the forefront of customer interaction and engagement. This is not the security of passwords and networks, this is the security of information, data, personality and life. The open door into the world of an individual that has built a home on social media and doesn’t realise that the world is looking inside. 

The reality is that people need to realise that if they’re posting on social media platforms, they’ve given up their rights to their data. Plenty of docudramas, movies and documentaries have highlighted the ethical and privacy concerns of social networks and how the information gleaned from within these online environments is being used. There are few people who aren’t startled by the fact that they’ve talked about running with a friend on one platform, only to be hit by thousands of adverts for running shoes on another.  

There are thousands of ways that social platforms are tracking people. Permissions given on these platforms allows them to see that there are apps that you use for running, that you are in a group dedicated to running, and that you regularly move a set distance every other day. This information is intelligently extrapolated and analysed and sold to a running shoe brand so they can sell their product to you. Users have no idea who is transacting with their data.  

Users are also volunteering their information to the internet.  

If organisations and individuals really want to respect privacy and ensure that their data is secure, they need to read every privacy policy and make informed choices from there. That said, research has found that it would take one person 250 hours to read the policy documentation that goes with social media platforms and apps.  Almost half a month that nobody will spend. A fact that these companies rely on. Devices won’t work unless the Terms of Service are signed, apps won’t offer full functionality without them – users have to agree to these privacy policies or walk away. What this translates to is the importance of paying attention to what you share on social media as this can impact on your wellbeing and your career. 

Most recruitment teams and HR professionals will use social media to find out more about a potential candidate. They will look at their different profiles and assess their online behaviour before recommending them for a role. If a person is posting photos that are not putting them in the best light, they may end up damaging their career. No law firm is going to hire someone with a social presence that’s covered in alcohol and bad behaviour. Yes, this is private information, but it’s in the public domain so anyone can see it and use it against you. Again, privacy is a gossamer thin wall in the online environment. 

This conversation around privacy has also extended into the remote and hybrid working environment. Employers, concerned that people are not working their promised hours, are using tracking programmes that are designed to tell the business what the employee was doing during the day. For the company that’s struggling with poor worker performance, this ability to assess what a person has been doing all day is a lifesaver. For the employee that works long hours without needing encouragement, it feels like an invasion of privacy. While the employer is entitled to know that a person is doing what they’re supposed to be doing because they’re paying them for a service, this is a can of privacy worms that is rapidly wriggling open in the modern, post-pandemic working world. 

While there is no clear-cut pathway through the intricate complexities of privacy within these varied contexts, companies and employees can take some practical steps towards a shared resolution. The first is to engage in a culture of transparency. Employees need to know that their employers are using tracking software or equivalent solutions to assess their performance so they can make an informed choice upfront. There also needs to be a clear work from home policy that’s clear on expectations, requirements, and key performance indicators. It is this transparency and setting of boundaries that will transform the thin walls of privacy into thick walls of protection. That will allow for individual and organisation to create working frameworks that respect the realities of the online realm without losing the freedom to choose where the information sits, or who sees it.  

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