Managing public location data

Mobile gps navigation, travel destination, location and positioning concept


Image source

I am an active user of geolocation data on my smartphone. I take public transport, both at home, and on my travels. My GPS must be active for my transit app, which I use heavily, to update me on my bus schedules and routes. I also like to tag my location on Facebook; I’ve found this to be very useful when I’m on holidays, as it allows me to accurately label the names and locations of museums, galleries, and so forth when I upload my digital images to my cloud server. I use Google Maps frequently to find walking routes to various locations, even if these routes are sometimes overly circuitous. I am aware of the privacy concerns that people have about this type of tracking data, but I must admit that convenience and functionality win the argument for me.

This article by Fareena Sultan and Syagnik Banerjee discusses how marketers can use and manage geolocation data. Proximity marketing is one of these uses: Stores deploy beacons that send Bluetooth alerts to subscribed customers to push products. Geo-fencing extends this further by creating a zone around a business to push alters to mobile devices of subscribers. I don’t subscribe to these types of services, as this is rather too much information that I am willing to share, and also because I practice minimalism and thus am careful to avoid impulse buying.

Vigilant Marketing Intelligence is another use of geolocation data: As an example, if I post a picture on Instagram of a meal I’ve eaten at a restaurant and include the restaurant’s name, I may receive a private response from that restaurant, or a public post, and my post may be shared by that restaurant. I may be invited by that restaurant to participate in a survey, post a review, and so forth. This is an area I need to monitor, given what I have said above about tagging my location in Facebook. I do like to support restaurants that have vegan options, which is why I tag food at times, but I must admit that I’m not always comfortable with the resharing of this content, so I’m being more vigilant about when I do this.

The authors discuss the privacy implications of collecting geolocation data: It’s important to understand that this type of increased monitoring warrants a corresponding increased attention to privacy needs. Once a customer chooses to participate in a social media sharing system, attention has to be dedicated to securing data storage and providing the user access to information that has been collected by brands and processed on their behalf. The article provides some useful advice on how companies can protect customer privacy, and how they should communicate with their customers.

Biometrics and digital security


Image source

This article by Larry Alton discusses the benefits and potential weaknesses of biometrics to secure digital devices. I have been using biometrics on my smartphone, laptop, and tablet for a number of years now. I use a thumbprint on my laptop and tablet. I prefer the higher security offered by biometrics, but the thumbprint can be a bit of nuisance at times, as I often have to swipe my thumb more than once. If there is any moisture on your skin (e.g., hand lotion, water, etc.), the scan doesn’t work; similarly, if you swipe too slowly or quickly, the scan won’t work. I’ve recently switched to iris recognition on my smartphone and much prefer this method, as it is very quick; much faster than a thumb swipe, and it took two seconds for the smartphone to register the irises.  Registering a thumbprint takes much longer, as the scanning area on the smartphone is very small. Unlocking via iris scan is faster than entering a password. Alton’s list of benefits and weaknesses follow below:


The uniqueness of the signature.  Instead of memorizing an exhaustive list of passwords or carrying around specific paperwork to prove your identity, you simply provide a smile, an eye, an ear, or a fingerprint, which you have with you at all times.

Accuracy.  The latest comprehensive study of fingerprint technology found that single-finger tests were correct 98.6 percent of the time, with two-finger tests getting 99.6 percent accuracy and 99.9 percent accuracy for four-finger (or more) tests.

Cost. Though the cost of setting up a biometric system may be expensive, the long-term costs of management are much lower than those of conventional systems.


Device limitations. Right now, the most convenient and portable device we have with biometric capabilities is the smartphone, but the smartphone has limitations. It has a small fingerprint scanning area, so it only takes a partial fingerprint. (NB. See my note above about why I’ve switched to iris recognition).

Modifications. Biometrics rely on the permanence of your features, but what if those features change? What if someone obtains a copy of your features? It may be hard to replicate your iris, or the shape of your ears, but if someone does, it’s virtually impossible to modify what you already have as a measure of security.

Resets.  If you want to verify your identity after a thief has stolen your biometric information, you’ll need to do it in person, and by that time, the damage may be done.

System limitations. Biometrics still rely on databases, and databases are vulnerable. If and when someone finds a way into the system, whether it’s through a brute-force hacking attempt or an employee’s weakly created password, they’ll have access to data that could be used to manipulate millions of accounts.

Quantum computing


Image Source

Full disclosure: I am a big fan of the Showtime series Billions. The world of venture capitalism has never interested me very much, but the Machiavellian-type machinations of the main characters, as well as the cat and mouse games, appeal to my INTJ nature. One of the most interesting characters on the show is Taylor Mason, a mathematical whiz who applies their talents with laser-like precision to investment decisions. Quantum computing is playing a role of increasing importance in the story line, as Mason and their colleague develop a mathematically foolproof (they hope) method to assess investment risks and opportunities. Bobbie Axelrod, Mason’s employer, on the other hand, prefers to trust in his own very superior instincts and believes in the power of emotions and intuitions when it comes to decision making.  It will be interesting to see how the battle of mathematics versus intuition will play out in the remainder of the season.

All this serves as a preamble to this post by Lisa Morgan that discusses the growing importance of quantum computing, and why businesses need to embrace it. I’ve attended a few presentations on this topic, which I find fascinating. Morgan provides helpful explanations of quantum computing and provides useful references sources that businesses can consult to understand this concept further. Morgan provides links to a number of quantum computing sandboxes that can be used to get a feel for what this technology can accomplish. The horizon for full implementation of quantum computing is estimated to be ten years, which means that organizations need to start preparing for it now.

Answering questions with metadata


Image Source

This post by Robert Seiner discusses the various questions that metadata can answer in an organizational setting. Seiner posits that managing data, information, and knowledge will be the business driver. Seiner divides these questions into the following categories:

  1. Database Metadata
  2. Data Model Metadata
  3. Data Movement Metadata
  4. Business Rule Metadata
  5. Data Stewardship Metadata
  6. Application Component Metadata
  7. Data Access / Reporting Metadata
  8. Rationalization Metadata
  9. Data Quality Metadata
  10. Computer Operations Metadata

Seiner suggests that organizations ask themselves

  • can my company answer these questions?
  • what is it costing my company to answer these questions?
  • what is the results when we are not being able to answer these questions?

Under each of the 10 categories above, Seiner provides a comprehensive list of sub-questions, e.g., What databases exist? What is the physical name of the database where the data is stored?

The post is a long read, but well worth it, and is certainly something I will be recommending to my students in the next academic year.


Windows 10 and sets

I just watched the video below that explains a new feature that Microsoft plans to launch in which you can have tabbed content within its applications; these sets allow you to have different files and projects open within the same window.  I will be delighted when this feature is made available, as it should make for a much smoother workflow.






Information governance: Not quite there yet


Image Credit

In this post, David Roe reports on the findings of  Information Coalition’s (IC) Information Strategy 2017 report to which, unfortunately, I do not have access. Roe states that despite years of talking about information governance and compliance, less than half of companies surveyed have a compliance culture  — and many companies apparently have no governance strategy at all …. [and] rate their organization’s information-related metrics as severely lacking. In fact, they add, employees turn to unauthorized apps to get the information they need to get their work done.

The study used the IC Information Governance Model as the benchmark to assess the effectiveness of information governance efforts:

  • Authorities: Clearly defining the roles and stakeholders that should be a part of your Information Governance effort
  • Supports: Supports must underly [sic] your Information Governance efforts to ensure ongoing, sustainable success
  • Processes: Processes exist to ensure that your Information Governance efforts are actionable.
  • Capabilities: Starting with creation through to disposal, information moves. You must have these capabilities to enable that movement.
  • Structures: From technology structures to taxonomic structures, the Information Governance model covers it all.
  • Infrastructure: While planning is fundamental, at some point the technology must align completely.

I have given presentations to members of government agencies about information governance. The response I often receive is that they are aware of the need for, and the principles of, information governance. The challenge, it seems, is translating that knowledge into specific action. Clearly, much more work still needs to be done.

Opening your doors to strangers


In its continued push to change the face of the retail market, Amazon has introduced the Amazon Key service for Prime members. As a Prime member, get your Amazon packages securely delivered just inside your front door. Plus, grant access to the people you trust, like your family, friends, dog walker, or house cleaner – no more leaving a key under the mat. They Amazon Key In-Home Kit includes: Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera and compatible smart lock. Below is a listing of some of the features:

  • Real-time notifications. We’ll send notifications the morning of delivery, just before, and right after. Watch your delivery happening live or view a video clip of it later.
  • Give family and friends temporary, recurring, or permanent access. Or provide one-time access for your electrician or dog walker. You’re in control—just schedule the date and time window.
  • Check in on your front door 24/7. The Amazon Key In-Home Kit includes an Amazon Cloud Cam (Key Edition) indoor security camera with 1080p Full HD, night vision, and more—plus an Amazon Key-compatible smart lock for secure access control.

The starting price is $249.99 USD, depending on location. This service is not yet available in Canada.

I have been an Amazon Prime member for a few years now, mostly because of the unlimited free cloud storage for my digital images, and for the free two-day delivery (sometimes) for items that are marked as “Prime.” The Amazon Prime video streaming service is thrown in but, to be honest, its offerings are limited in number and, more importantly, in quality.

Two-day express delivery is a lovely concept, but its value can become rather moot when you are never home to receive the packages. I can send smaller packages to my office, but since I take public transit, I am limited by what I can carry. My usual route is to have the packages delivered to my local post office. I can certainly see the attraction in having Amazon deliver my packages to my home while I’m not there, but the privacy and security considerations are high. For people like me who live in condominiums, this service likely won’t work very well if bylaws don’t allow people to install security cameras outside front doors of individual units.

I have been willing to sacrifice a degree of privacy for the convenience of online shopping for several years; I’m not sure, however, that Amazon Key is a line I am willing to cross. How will Amazon store all the data captured by the cameras? How much information would be gathered about other aspects of people’s lives via the camera, such as the faces and ages of their children, visitors, friends, family members, and so forth? There is a four-hour delivery window, which means your camera will be active for at least that long. Does the camera continue to transmit data to Amazon all day? You can check on the camera 24-hours a day, so does this mean that Amazon receives this information as well? Do I want Amazon to know my daily habits, such as when I go out, what time I return home, and so forth?  I am sure that Amazon is laying the groundwork for automated ground delivery. So many questions to ponder. I think it’s worth the five-minute walk to the post office: The exercise will do me good, as will the peace of mind.



Why people may experience difficulty writing

Speaking of writing, I have neglected this blog lately, as I have been caught up in too many other things, but I would like to get back on track. Today’s post isn’t related specifically to metadata or information management, but it’s a topic that is very close to my heart, namely, the art of writing. I have been fortunate in my life to have been formally schooled for many years in the grammar and syntax of a number of languages. The quality of writing in so many environments does appear to be declining, and I certainly see this in many of the assignments that I receive. While problems with grammar and syntax are common and, unfortunately, on the rise, the bigger matter is the ability to communicate clearly and concisely.

In this post, Glenn Leibowitz’s discusses his frequent encounters with writing that is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations. Leibowtiz asks:  what is the writer trying to say, exactly? And second, how can the writer convey her ideas more clearly, without having to lean on language that confuses the reader? Leibowitz discusses  psychologist Steven Pinker’s belief that the root cause of poor writing is the Curse of Knowledge, which he defines as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.” I encounter this phenomenon frequently in academic writing; as a reviewer of manuscripts, I have often found it necessary to ask authors to provide further clarification of pivotal concepts or ideas they discuss. When marking papers, I often remind students to be wary of assuming prior knowledge on the part of the reader. This situation can be remedied relatively easily by the provision of simple explanations.

Jargon, on the other hand, is more insidious and difficult to deal with. Jargon is particularly rampant in the business environment, and I encounter it frequently from some colleagues in my faculty.  There have been a number of articles about the pervasiveness of jargon and “management speak.” This post suggests that jargon may be a means of validating the importance of the work; further, when we replace a specific task with a vague expression, we grant the task more magnitude than it deserves. If we don’t describe an activity plainly, it seems less like an easily achievable goal and more like a cloudy state of existence that fills unknowable amounts of time. This post suggests that jargon is used for two reasons:

  • Technical. In this case, you have a specific highly technical area where jargon helps communicate more clearly, efficiently and effectively (within the technical community).
  • Posturing. Here people choose to use language that prevents others understanding what they are saying. The word ‘evasive’ is used a lot in connection with this type of jargon.

This post provides useful tips for how to avoid jargon:

  • Try to think of a different word. If you can’t come up with one, try harder. If you still can’t think of one – Google it.
  • Think about your audience and what you’re really trying to communicate. Where are these people coming from? What are they interested in? Keeping these things in mind, how can you communicate your message clearly, simply, and effectively?
  • Ask yourself if a fifth grader would understand it. That doesn’t mean you should weed out complexity, but think about simplifying language. Simple doesn’t mean stupid.
  • Have someone who is not familiar with devspeak (development speak) read over your work and give you feedback. Eventually, you’ll start to learn which words make no sense, and which ones are OK.

I am crossing my fingers that this post does not contain jargon.

Privacy and the monetization of data

In this article, David Rabb discusses the various privacy implications of the monetization of data. Rabb focuses specifically on Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that companies can obtain about people through cookies, IP addresses, GPS, and so forth. Companies have often touted the anonymity of cookies but, as Rabb points out, there are many ways to tie cookies to known individuals, a process that often includes “consent” consumers don’t know they’ve granted. Other theoretically anonymous identifiers such as device IDs and IP addresses can also often be connected to PII. And research has shown that even less specific information, such as a collection of taxi trips or a combination of birthdate [sic] and Zip code, are [sic] often enough to identify specific individuals.

I don’t think that most internet users are naive enough to think that companies don’t have their PII but, as Rabb points out, customers may broadly assume your company knows everything about them but they can still be surprised at the data presented in specific situations – especially if that data is wrong.

Information managers face the increasingly complex task of maintaining the security of PII, ensuring this information is accurate, using only the personal information needed for a specific task, and ensuring that the privacy rights of customers are respected.