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Tag Archives: legal issues

Seeking Balance

Lately I’ve been having a bit of trouble coming up with things to blog about. It’s not that there aren’t subjects worthy of discussing or exploring; it’s just that most of them have to do with my job and I’m uncertain over whether or not – and to what extent – I can share what it is I’m doing and the issues my company is facing. Neither is any of it “Top Secret” (though some of our work is) but, rather, we are an old and staid aerospace company with deep roots in governmental contracting and with a strong impulse to hold everything we do close to the vest. This is, in part, to protect our intellectual property which, in the world we move in, is quite valuable, and the need to comply with the provisions of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that provide very serious – and expensive – penalties for “exporting” controlled information and knowledge. Export-controlled knowledge is our bread and butter, so I need to be sure I err on the side of caution.

So, I guess this in the way of a caveat. I would love to reveal more about where I’m employed; after all, I’ve been there over twenty years and my experiences greatly color how I see the business world and what I have to say about my struggles to incorporate Enterprise 2.0 design principles and tools within the organization. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do so for the foreseeable future, though I am working on figuring out just how to step up the precipice without dropping off the cliff of inappropriate posting. I suspect this will be an ongoing struggle, but I will keep trying to figure out how to share my thoughts about our efforts at developing into a company that derives a large part of its income from industrial and commercial efforts, rather than government contracts.

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To Search or Not to Search

About a week and half ago, while searching for I have no idea what, someone where I work came across a document or two that contained sensitive personal information. They should not have found this information, yet there it was. They were using a tool we have called Goldfire Researcher, a very powerful semantic search engine developed and sold by Invention Machine. The discovery precipitated an order from our IP Attorney to immediately remove access to all the databases generated from our huge share drive. This occurred almost on the same day I had another of Invention Machine’s products, Goldfire Innovator, installed on my machine and a couple of days before I was to receive training on its use. Needless to say, the training became exceedingly difficult as there was nothing to use for research; at least nothing internally.

Today we are to meet with two of our lawyers and decide how to proceed. I don’t believe anyone thinks it is in the best interests of the company to not be able to search our own data for useful information in either performing our daily work, or in our innovation initiatives. I understand the position of the lawyers. Being one myself (though that is not my position where I work), I appreciate the need to protect the privacy of our employees and the information that was found should not have been where it was. We need to put a process in place that allows access, yet protects all kinds of sensitive information. It will be interesting to see just what we come up with.

I should point out this is not a shortcoming of the tool(s) that Invention Machine provides. Rather it is, in some ways, a fortunate side-effect of the power of the tool(s) that we have surfaced areas where others have not been adhering to the procedures we already have in place for protecting this kind of information. I am hopeful we will find a way out of this quandary soon and will be better organized with respect to all our data as a result.

Rick


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