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Surveillance: an important facet of KM
The knowledge dilemma

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MobileGuard suggests: “Configure policies to prevent data collection from personal e-mail, content or applications on an employee-owned device. GPS location, personal user information and telecom data can also remain private, and employee-owned devices can be protected from a full device wipe or remote control. With custom terms of use agreements based on user role, organization group and device platform, users can be informed about data that will be captured and what they are allowed to do with the device.”


Discussions of knowledge management sidestep the metadata that can be collected about the actions of employees. Years ago, Tacit Software demonstrated the value of knowing which employees were the individuals most sought by colleagues for information. In a Tacit briefing I attended, the “centers of influence” were often different from the individuals identified by management as the “experts.” Without knowledge of employee activities and interests, some organizations may be ignoring a potentially valuable source of information about the company. Metadata obtained via surveillance may help minimize compliance issues, point to a fruitful product opportunity and clarify the value of certain employee’s contributions.

When I discuss systems that generate metadata and capture of content, issues about privacy arise in the discussion sessions after my formal remarks. The concerns that have been voiced over the last three years have changed, based on my experiences at the programs operated by TeleStrategies. Attendees have greater awareness of the types of monitoring that can be performed ?within organizations and across networks. The information about monitoring voice calls of world leaders, for example, leaves a sharper impression than generalities about metadata.

For organizations, there is a growing awareness of the need to make certain that employees are not operating in a manner that creates legal or regulatory challenges. Financial services has for a decade taken steps to monitor certain information streams. Healthcare, struggling to catch up with technology, is now following the path of brokerages and investment firms. Commercial enterprises, in which trade secrets are the essence of revenue, have a growing appetite for monitoring solutions. Apple’s well-known penchant for secrecy is little more than the type of security in place at pharmaceutical companies engaged in drug research.

As organizations struggle to maintain a competitive advantage and minimize risk, surveillance will become an important facet of knowledge management. KM purists are likely to be uncomfortable with that type of metadata, but ignoring the information creates a dangerous blind spot. Many knowledge management professionals prefer to talk about collaboration, access to previously unknown documents authored by a high-value employee and reduction of the manual processes for management tasks.

For employees, a personal mobile device might be the one means of communication that could be difficult for an employer to monitor. How long will that communications channel remain beyond the reach of the knowledge management officer? I don’t have an answer, but my hunch is not long.

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