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.

5 Best Places to Find Government Technology News Online

The Internet is full of information, especially when it comes to government and technology news. Sifting through the myriad of sources online can be a cumbersome act, and to top it off you might not even be reading information from quality sources. The Internet makes the sharing of information rapid and easy, but the flip-side is that the Internet also makes the sharing of misinformation just as rapid and easy. For those who are interested or concerned with government technology this post will explore the five best online sources of government technology news and tell you a little bit about them.

State Tech Magazine

State Tech Magazine is a valuable resource for IT workers and leaders at the state and local levels of government. The website and publication thoroughly explore the issues IT professionals face when implementing or evaluating a solution for government applications. State Tech is published by CDW, which, for those who do not know, is a multi-brand technology solutions provider that has over thirty years of technology industry experience and provides solutions for governments, schools, healthcare organizations, and businesses in the United States and the United Kingdom. Their website and blog are constantly being updated with videos and the latest industry information as well as providing quality and relevant tips to make IT professionals jobs and lives easier.

GCN

GCN is an interesting resource. Their website has a deep section entitled State and Local that explores and shares stories on all of the latest technology implementations and services that local and state governments are using to better serve the communities that they represent. There are also resources and articles on a lot of other technology related topics such as cyber security. GCN also offers technology assessments, case studies, and recommendations to IT managers in the public sector.

Gov Tech

Government Technology is a thorough source of information regarding all things technology as it applies to the public sector. The website is constantly being updated with the latest technology news regarding everything from the speed of Pennsylvania’s broadband system to the coverage of San Diego’s deployment of multi-sensor pods. Government Technology is also published in magazine form and they do offer online PDF versions of their magazine for those who would prefer to get an electronic version of the publication. The website also has a full list of upcoming events and webinars that interested parties or people may be able to take part in.

FCW

This resource is different from the ones previously mentioned in that it focuses solely on the federal government and the technology issues that they are concerned with. They aim to provide federal technology executives with strategies, ideas, and information that will allow these professionals to navigate the complex and ever-changing world of federal business. They focus on current policy, pending legislation, the power players, and the technology that drives and is at the center of all the issues the federal government faces today. FCW provides their readers with stunning photographs, insider information, and gripping profiles.

Nextgov

The final resource on our list is also dedicated to federal technology. Nextgov employs award-winning journalists and a large community spread across the nation of contributing experts to provide an around-the-clock resource on technology and government. They strive not only to be a valuable resource for federal technology decision makers but also to be a leader in the national discussion about how technology is changing the way that the government serves and protects the people that they represent. Nextgov is concerned with exploring the latest technological innovations and the potential impact they will have on our government.

Small Cities Can Be Smart Cities: 2 Shining Examples

Smaller cities can be smart cities just as easily as large cities can, but it’s true that when we consider smart cities, our minds go to the larger, more populated, urban areas first. It’s not just because they are more famous and get more attention from the press, they also have well-established infrastructures, larger local government networks and bigger budgets to make innovation happen.

What are the smart cities doing?

Take Amsterdam for example. Their Smart City program began in 2009 and continues to make giant, innovative strides in areas based on these 6 themes:

  • Infrastructure and Technology: working to create stronger and more expansive connections between citizens and technology
  • Energy, Water and Waste: these programs follow the belief that sustainable energy programs are the future
  • Mobility: transportation by cycling, electric cars and car sharing is growing steadily
  • Circular City: programs to minimize waste and pollution by reducing usage, recycling and re-using
  • Government and Education: bringing ASC teams together with government and education to “make innovation happen”
  • Citizens and Living: these programs work together with citizens getting their ideas and feedback on how to create a more livable city

Hundreds of large cities around the world like Amsterdam, Stockholm and London in Europe; or Seattle, Boston and San Francisco in the United States are integrating information and communication technology with the Internet of things technology to become smart cities in efforts to reduce energy consumption, pollution levels, water waste and to raise the standard of living for their residents.

What about small cities?

While many still believe that smart city technology is only successful in large urban areas, the 2016 Smart Cities Survey conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors suggests otherwise. Their numbers show that out of 335 total projects taking place in 54 cities, the majority (98) were in small cities, compared to 69 in large cities. Small cities beat large cities for future projects in the planning stages, too.

More and more small cities are taking part in smart city programs to control energy and water waste, to provide a comfortable, safe environment for residents and to prepare for a future that promises to include an ever-increasing amount of technology. But, according to the Smart Cities Survey, there are more advantages  to implementing smart programs:

  • new technology is easier to use and test in smaller environments
  • investing in smart technology attracts more outside investment
  • smart technology spurs economic growth
  • smart technology is costly, but smaller cities are eligible, and more likely to obtain, federal funding

Examples of successful small, smart cities

Ketchum, Idaho  has 2,728 in-city residents and another 2,700 daily commuters that work in town. In Ketchum, there are a number of smart city projects underway and more in the planning stage. The most well-known, The Walkable Ketchum Project, aims at improving the city for pedestrians. Technological improvements associated with this project include solar streetlights with sensors to control the lights automatically, according to the flow of traffic and way-finding signage for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.   Still in the planning stage as of June 2016 is a smart irrigation project which includes the use of weather and soil activated sensors. Estimated results of the project show a reduction in water consumption between 20 to 60 percent, meaning a savings of over 1 million gallons of water per year.

Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey is a small community of around 71,000 residents that has been at the forefront of smart city innovation since 2013 when the town council voted to implement a new program to monitor use of municipal resources. Their goals were to cut costs and make their systems more efficient. They became the first municipality in the United States to use a web-based management tool for projects such as this and soon became a model for other cities to follow.

In the 2016 rankings of Best Places to Live in the U.S., Money Magazine placed Cherry Hill in spot 26 out of a total of 800 and Moody’s Investors Service just gave the Cherry Hill Township a bond rating of Aa1 due to their devotion to economic growth and successful financial management. These are all proof that their steps towards becoming a smart city are paying off.

When it comes to smart cities, size doesn’t matter, the issues and goals are the same. People want to live in a city that offers a high quality of life, is environmentally aware and fiscally responsible, whether it is small or large.

10 Gov’t Tech Blogs You’ll Want to Follow

No one wants to look like a “newbie,” so here are a few tips on 10 gov’t tech blogs you must subscribe to so you can keep up to date on all the latest news and developments in the technology field in the public sector.

Lohrmann on Cybersecurity & Infrastructure. With almost 234,000 visitors in the last 90 days, this popular website sports three blogs. One is an opinion blog. The second blog is “govgirl” which discusses innovations in social media in the government setting.

The third blog, “Lohrmann on Cybersecurity & Infrastructure” attacks various topics ranging from IOT and the smart grid to the security risk of moving government data to the cloud.

Emerging Tech. The “emerging tech” blog covers emerging technologies across government in topics addressing the defense sector and intelligence, rumors, research and development strides, and IT morsels. The latest blog is all about AI.

Dr. Chaos. Aami Lakhani, a senior security strategist, writes a blog under the pen name, Dr. Chaos. The topics revolve around cyber security issues in the social media millieu, such as smart homes, encrypting the web, and the 10 most common web security vulnerabilities.

Cisco Government Blog. Cisco has several blogs for various industries. Its blog for government touches upon topics such as cybersecurity in the public sector and how police departments harness new technology and cities become smart cities.

Federal Blueprint Blog. Blue Coat Systems, Inc. publishes a blog called the Federal Blueprint Blog whose team of three experts write a weekly blog about cybersecurity in the federal workplace. Articles present information on the post-OPM data breach, migration to the cloud, Shadow IT, encrypted traffic management, expanding on threat intelligence, and more.

Blue Coat also produces its own blog called, appropriately enough, The Company Blog, which delves into topics at least once a month but often more than once in a month. The topics range from the life cycle of a data breach, to information on the Black Hat security conference, to paying attention to security issues when adopting Office 365.

Govloop. Govloop is an on-line community with more than 250,000 members made up of government employees, industry experts, and partners. Members of the community write the blog in featured blog entries. They share their ideas and their desire for a better public sector. Blog topics sweep wide from using open source software in a government setting, to best practices, and expectations when moving from private to public sector.

FedScoop. This site has taken the community approach but in a different way than Govloop. FedScoop is the federal government’s community platform for education and collaboration. FedScoop talks to government leaders from the White House to federal agencies, from academia to the tech firms. They get together to discuss the ways they see that technology can help improve government.

GovInfoSecurity. The topics on this site all revolve around information security. There are six blogs to choose from, depending on your interest at the moment: The Public Eye (privacy); The Fraud Blog; Safe & Sound (healthcare information security); Euro Security Watch (security trends across Europe); The Experts’ View (industry experts); and Industry Insights.

The Hill Blog. To find out about what is happening on Capital Hill, you will want to read The Hill. In addition to articles on legislation and politics, The Hill also has a blog. Just as an example of the kind of post you will find on The Hill blog, you may want to read the blog exploring a timely discussion of modern technology’s application in the public sector, “Securing Government Infrastructure with Biometrics.”

VirtualBlocks. This site is for all you hardcore techies out there. Topics cover backing up data, networking storage, and converged infrastructure. It’s a good reference site for IT leaders in the public sector even if it covers more than federal issues.

To learn about 50 blogs in the federal arena, read fedtechmagazine.com’s article entitled “50 Must-Read Federal IT Blogs 2015” which was the inspiration for this article.