4 Tips on Finding a Balance Between Sharing Data and Protecting Data

We are all familiar — in concept if not in practical experience — with encryption protocols that we use everyday to protect our sensitive personal information along the internet’s pathways. We are also familiar with how necessary it has become in today’s world to share our personal information with various organizations, with financial institutions, and with many government agencies (Social Security, state and federal taxes, just to name two). To get ahead in this digital, data intense world we live in, it is clear that finding a balance between sharing data and protecting data is vital. Well, we just happen to have four tips on ways to accomplish just that.

Open Data = Sensitive Data. It is an unwritten “rule” that local governments often find that open data equals sensitive data. In addition, the “law of unintended consequences” often comes into play when  data set expansion allows hackers to mine data already in the public space until they eventually identify individuals. Cybersecurity experts know this as the mosaic effect, which often weakens long-established best efforts at data protection.

Tension between sharing data and protecting data. It is safe to say that there is a natural tension between sharing data and protecting data. Open government proponents want to see more sharing of information. The popular move toward smart cities means the big data publicly available to government entities as well as various business organizations will skyrocket. The problem is not the release of sensitive data to the public. Rather, it is the potential for hackers to mine information already out in the public domain. It is the potential for hackers to take advantage of information the government or other organization did not need for its project and should avoid storing it in the first place.

Four ideas for IT officers. The following are the suggestions for finding the balance between sharing and protection.

  • Find the level of risk that government officials and the public can tolerate. Start with the understanding that zero tolerance is not possible. Before creating any data sharing program, do due diligence in a risk-benefit analysis. That is identifying the possible vulnerabilities, potential threats, and how likely the threats will happen. To do this, developers must know who will use the data, who will benefit from the data, and how those individuals will use the data.
  • Privacy, Privacy, Privacy. That means privacy is a major concern during all phases of the data’s life. It’s important for data collection, maintenance, release, and removal when no longer relevant.  For practical purposes, remaining cognizant of privacy means not collecting sensitive information that is not relevant to the project and could result in a vulnerability.
  • Privacy framework. Local governments are on their own for the privacy framework because the federal government and most states have few guidelines. Researchers say cities should develop their own frameworks with their own privacy standards and consistent procedures.
  • Keep Public Informed. Whenever cities decide to release data, researchers say that the public should know how the government developed the data, how it benefits the city, and what precautions they took with regard to the data in order to protect sensitive information. The watchword is transparency. Part of transparency means developing access to information as well assigning and maintaining responsibility for the results and creating ways to assess benefits and risks.

Harvard researchers developed the “Open Data Privacy Playbook” with suggestions for local governments on how to find the right balance between sharing and protecting data.  It is well worth a read as is the Citylab.com article entitled “A Playbook for How Cities Should Share and Protect Data” which was the inspiration for this post.

4 Ways Technology Can Improve Your Council Meetings

Council meetings have a long tradition in America, going all the way back to the colonial days. Local representatives would have meetings in places where the public could hear what was being discussed, where they could offer their views, and ask questions. It ensured a transparent system of government, and let everyone see how the machinery worked.

However, things have changed since then. While the idea of keeping council meetings open to the public is certainly good, we live in a much faster-paced world than we used to. A world where people can’t stop everything they’re doing to drive across town spending several hours listening to a council meeting. Fortunately, our technology allows us to improve our meetings in a variety of ways.

1. Improve Accessibility

People lead busy lives in the modern age. We work around the clock, we go to school, and we try to better ourselves and our situations. Even if we have an interest in government, we can’t always block out an hour or three in the middle of a Thursday to go attend a meeting. What we can do, though, is watch that meeting on our smartphones, leave comments in a live chat, and interact with politicians that way.

All it takes is a camera and Sliq software to take a meeting that only a few people could attend, if they chose, and open it up to everyone who has an interest in finding out what’s happening in their constituency.

2. Save Time

Another reason old-fashioned meetings might not be attended with the same regularity that they once were is that they take time. Both council members and members of the public have to block out the time, they have to travel, find parking, and go through a dozen other hassles. Technology can cut all of those hoops out of the process, and allow everyone to get right down to business. Council members could log in straight from their offices, and have digital meetings in an online space. Constituents can tune-in from wherever they are to watch. And no one has to leave their house, or cancel their evening plans, to see what’s going on.

3. Encourage Engagement

When you take down barriers to attending an event, the result is that more people tend to show interest in that event. Council meetings that take place at 6:30 on a Friday night might be convenient for some people, but those who have work, or who can’t beat traffic, or who otherwise can’t make that time can’t participate. People who are free, but who don’t want to go through the hassle of physically attending would also be turned off. But by removing those barriers and taking a meeting digital, more people would engage with it. Because taking out your phone and watching a meeting, whether live or recorded, is a lot easier than trying to fit in into an already busy schedule.

Additionally, technology can be used to let people know when and where meetings are taking place with greater ease. Instead of burying the details in a website, it’s now possible to put meetings up on the council’s social media pages, and to blast links to anyone who cares to watch. Technology can actively reach out to people who would otherwise not even be involved.

4. Go Green

Another of the great benefits of integrating technology into your council meetings is that they become more green. Most of the time, though, this happens in subtle ways.

For example, say that meetings are largely attended digitally instead of in-person. Ask how many people are no longer driving across town, burning fuel to attend. How many resources are saved by using a smaller room that doesn’t take as much energy to heat or cool, and how much less power it takes to communicate digitally.

To read more about how technology can improve your council meetings, read GovTech’s article entitled “How Technology is Giving Town Hall Meetings a Modern Twist“.

Top 5 Benefits of Cloud-Based Software

Thinking about transitioning your business to cloud-based software? Well, you aren’t alone. According to RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud Survey, an overwhelming 95% of enterprises use at least one cloud service. Of course, there’s a good reason so many companies prefer cloud-based software.

1. Management

With the respective service provider hosting and maintaining all necessary resources, cloud-based software is easier for companies to manage. This is in stark contrast to conventional “locally installed” software, which is hosted by the company/user instead. If the hardware running the software malfunctions or otherwise stops working, the service provider will fix it.

Many providers of cloud software also offer metering at no additional charge, meaning you can see exactly how much bandwidth you are using to avoid unforeseen expenses later down the road.

2. Access Anywhere, Anytime

Arguably, one of the greatest benefits of cloud-based software is the ability to access it from any Internet-connected computer or device. Whether you’re working in the office, lounging at home, or traveling for your business, you can access your cloud-based software. All you need is a computer or compatible device with an active Internet connection.

According to one study cited by Bloomberg, workers would accept an 8% pay cut if they were given the ability to work from home. So, by switching to the cloud, you can foster greater employee satisfaction within your company.

3. Enhanced Security

We can’t talk about the benefits of cloud-based software without mentioning security. Some people assume that anything with the word “cloud” in it is susceptible to hacking and malicious attacks, but this isn’t necessarily true. On the contrary, it can provide an additional layer of security, protecting your sensitive data from unauthorized access.

If you install software directly on your computer’s hard drive and lose the computer, a hacker or nefarious individual could access the software and retrieve your sensitive data. Conversely, using cloud-based software means the software — and your data — is stored on a remote server that’s maintained by the service provider.

4. Flexibility

Another reason to make the transition to the cloud is flexibility. Regardless of your company’s size and unique needs, you can rest assured knowing that the cloud will grow with your company.

Hopefully, your company will grow in the following months and years, in which case you’ll probably need additional bandwidth to sustain this growth. Cloud service providers can scale up their capacity to meet your company’s unique needs. And during slow periods, these service providers can scale down their capacity.

5. Cost-Savings

Last but not least, cloud-based software can yield some substantial cost-savings benefits. As stated above, cloud service providers can scale bandwidth and computing resources based on the company’s needs. This means you’re never paying for resources that you don’t need.

In addition to paying only for the resources your company needs, you can also save money with cloud-based software via the SaaS model. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) allows companies to buy usage rights for software. Instead of buying software with full usage rights, for instance, you can buy partial rights to use the cloud software, which usually results in cost-savings.

A separate survey of 1,300 UK-based companies conducted by Rackspace and the Manchester Business School and Vanson Bourne found that 88% of respondents said cloud computing has saved them money, while 56% said it helped their company boost profits.

These are just a few of the top benefits of using cloud-based software. Of course, there are other reasons to transition to the cloud, such as automatic software updates; the ability for two or more workers to collaborate on the same project; protection from data loss; and being that cloud computing scales according to your company’s size, it’s also environmentally friendly.