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For confidence-driven employees: Is automated collection a cure?


I first encountered the term “confidence-driven” two decades ago when I read that Farrokh K. Langdana used the phrase in “An Experimental Verification of the Lucas ‘Islands’ Approach to Business Cycles”. I am no academic, but the phrase “confidence-driven” evokes images of highly confident, well-educated digital Lone Rangers doing what each decides needs to be done. In terms of knowledge management, I think those types of professionals are likely to work the angles in almost any content-centric system.

On the other hand, the phrase addresses the disconnect between what is supposed to happen (archive e-mails, use a single e-mail for government- or company-related business, etc.) and what actually happens. Knowledge management brushes against issues related to the governance of the organization. In the sense in which I use the word “governance,” I am embracing information policy as well as the behavior of the actors (good, bad and neutral) in the organization.

Many knowledge management software options are available. Some, like OpenText, are widely used in government and the financial community. I would suggest that those systems operate with mittens. The idea is that fine controls exist within the administrative options. But in actual practice, the organization has no easy, direct way to corral the young MBA loaded with digital devices and apps like WhatsApp, Hike, WeChat, Viber, Kik, Tango, KakaoTalk and LINE.

Knowledge management, information management and white box MBA management are not equipped to deal with the reality of digital information. The question becomes, “What tools are available to bring knowledge management forward as a solution to what is a now familiar liturgical chant about e-mails lost, found and modified?”

In February 2015, I participated in a conference focused on the automated finding, collecting, processing, analyzing and reporting of threat-related information. (See CyberOSINT: Threat Detection via Automated Collection and Analysis of Internet-Accessible Information, telestrategies.com.) One of the delightful facets of the daylong conference for law enforcement and intelligence professionals was the abundance of commercial examples. Security professionals are becoming key players in a wide range of organizations.

Germane problems

The presentations by companies such as BAE Systems, Expert System, Haystax Technology, Leidos, Recorded Future and seven other companies made vivid three developments I found germane to the problems of confidence-driven employees and confidence-driven organizations. Let me highlight what I noted.

An organization can deploy an automated system to capture employees’ communications. The technology exists to prevent an individual creating a message from deleting it. A government entity can take steps to extend that automated collection to personal accounts as well. At this time, the use of cyber systems is limited. But the seminar lecturers made clear the capability for automatic operations is available and works.

Next, because human-implemented systems can be easily sidestepped, software tuned to perform the types of operations associated with knowledge management procedures may be the next-generation for information governance. As I reflect the issues associated with the Snowden and IRS matters, perhaps it is time to put more of the burden on automated collection and less on the vagaries of humans with access to the “delete” key.

More important may be the cost-reduction and efficiency gains resulting from automated collection and analysis. The time and effort expended in playing the e-mail Whac-A-Mole game are wasteful, frustrating and inconclusive. Would that energy benefit everyone if it were applied to more productive activities?

Automated collection

None of the automated systems are tuned for knowledge management functions. Considerable work is likely to be required. Within organizations, decision makers would have to understand what smart software can and cannot do. Unfortunately many enterprises and government entities naturally resist change and have to navigate a minefield of cultural, procedural and regulatory issues.

Marilyn vos Savant, whom Wikipedia states has the highest IQ in the world, allegedly said: “E-mail, instant messaging and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized.”

The comment, if correct, suggests that automated collection could be one way to bring order to the chaos now enveloping one-to-one communication. Smart software may have no soul, but unlike the confidence-driven professionals, does what it is instructed to do.

My thought is that reliance on automated collection dismisses the existing problematic protocols designed to keep executives somewhat more accountable. This approach translated to commercial business allows for better handling of compliance requirements.

Information about Stephen E. Arnold’s most recent monograph CyberOSINT: Next Generation Information Access is at www.xenky.com/cyberosint.

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