In a move that would have been unimaginable a year ago, 8 major tech firms signed a joint letter addressed to US leader calling on them to reform national security data collection practices. Microsoft and Google added their weight to a powerful list of competitors including Yahoo, AOL, Twitter, Apple, Facebook and LinkedIn in a published letter that hit American newspapers on December 9th. In the letter, the firms call for protections guaranteeing fair business practices, consumer security, privacy and confidence, as well as increased allowances for transparency concerning requests for information from the NSA. The NSA debacle is creating a need for management systems specialists and survey analysts within the private industry to help manage and protect the information firms collect from unwarranted use.
Prompted by a game
While Edward Snowden’s revelations documenting the scope of data collection by the NSA on individuals not deemed a security risk or of criminal interest has shocked the world, it was the recent knowledge that the NSA was tracking online gamers that is shaking the industry to the core. The extent of surveillance on the accounts of players associated with major online game environments such as “World of Warcraft” is what finally prompted the industry to act together. Each of the big 8 has dealt with data collection requests from the government individually but no prior incidence has prompted the tech firms out of the insulated and ultra-competitive isolation they maintain until the WoW revelations. The WoW revelations show the unprecedented extent of surveillance the NSA has performed, it also reveals the core weakness of the online economy – trust.
The good and bad of data collection
While all tech firms collect data that is beyond what they need to keep accounts functioning, they do so to help in developing their products and to increase their viability in the online marketplace. Their ability to create a sense of “technological trust” is essential to being successful. The snooping revelations have damaged consumer trust in the firms being able to protect their confidential information. Where the concern before was in protecting the information from criminal hackers, now it is in protecting it from unwarranted government surveillance.
Caught in the middle
While much can be made about the tech firms’ prior compliance with data requests and collections from security agencies, the fact remains that they have been caught in the middle of two approaching high speed trains. In the post 9/11 world that is defined by the conditions of the Patriot Act in the US, firms have to bend to requests from government agencies and are prohibited from revealing the extent of those requests to their customers. Coming down the tracks in the other direction is the increasing awareness of the extent of surveillance and violation of privacy by agencies by consumers. Caught in the middle, the tech firms have taken the best course of action which is to join together to create one unified voice. The coalition formed by the firms stands to become a presence in the decision making about how security is defined and governed in the US going forward by increasing the pressure felt by congressman.
How this change can will affect you
All of this pressure is going to create a surge in need for systems management specialists and other data analysts. Both sides will have to increase the number of people they have on their employment rolls to handle what is sure to become a complex system of data correlation. There are many online learning opportunities to allow for learning management system skills quickly. E-learning is going to take on an important role in providing employers with a means to quickly upgrade their employee’s skills as well. The online learning environment is highly flexible and affordable which will allow those who want to take advantage of the new role of systems management and surveys in data security to do so quickly.