Monthly Archives: December 2015

Implementing Privacy Policy Across Borders

Image of a padlock surrounded by gold stars on a blue field.Digital privacy and security often go hand in hand and the two will continue to be center stage in terms of information management in 2016. As we continue to work through the freedoms and accessibility that come with our connected world, we need to take a broader view than just our community and country. How will digital policy in other parts of the world affect the way we conduct business and how we protect our digital identity? An article this week about emerging policy in the European Union (EU) helped me understand the implications for my own digital persona.

Secondary Use

The EU has developed privacy and data protection reforms that could be enacted within two years. According to the new legislation, a European citizen’s information cannot be used for a secondary purpose without their consent. For example, if I agree to reveal my current location to use Google Maps or to find the nearest Olive Garden, that piece of information cannot also be used to target me for a local gym membership advertisement. Anyone intending to sell personal data would need to know the potential buyers ahead of time and must get permission from all individuals whose data may be sold. Because it will be difficult to limit this to EU citizens it could become wide-ranging. This also has implications for anyone doing data mining and analytics to create and sell information or profiles.


Personal profiling is also covered in this recently passed legislation. While not prohibited, it places the burden on the profiler to reveal the information collected and algorithms used to create the portrait. If I eat out every Tuesday night, shop for groceries every Thursday night, and have recently searched online for chef schools, someone could conclude that I am tired of restaurant food and could target me with an ad for a local kitchen store. Before that happens however, I have the right to know just how that data mined profile is created, according to the new legislation. While this helps me as a consumer, as an IT professional I have to be careful conducting any data mining or analytics and now have to be transparent in my work and intent.

In The Cloud

While I applaud the EU for its sweeping reforms I think they will be difficult to enact and enforce. Here is the dilemma for me: how do I reconcile geographical boundaries with cloud boundaries, which by definition are ethereal? For example, as an EU citizen, the data collected about me could be housed on cloud servers in Frankfurt or Mumbai or Buenos Aires or Atlanta. Do the laws refer to me as a citizen living within the European geographical boundaries? Or do they refer to the location of my data? What if I am a German resident but my data is housed and mined outside of the EU? What then?


The European legislation is still at least two years away from being enacted. In that time we need to broaden our thinking beyond government boundaries and create worldwide policies regarding security and privacy. It would be difficult to specifically mark all data belonging to citizens of a particular country, but it would be easier to apply the same standard for users worldwide. It will take a concerted effort to think beyond controlled boundaries and work together to consider what is best for all digital citizens. Do you think we will ever be able to agree on global digital policies? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Last Minute Tech Gift Ideas

Image of the outline of a Christmas gift against a bitmap background.If you have tech lovers on your gift list this year, here are a few ideas that are sure to bring them holiday cheer.


I wrote a blog last year about the capacity of a one terabyte disk drive which are becoming standard in new personal computers. I thought that a terabyte of storage should be more than enough for a lifetime of computing. I failed to take into account the rising popularity of personal networks that store not only computer files but also entertainment such as movies and music. You can now access movies and shows from your smart TV that are stored on a drive attached to your network. To accommodate your growing storage needs, Western Digital offers My Cloud Mirror, which is network attached personal cloud storage. Your files are mirrored in case of disaster and are available from your TV, computer, or mobile device. You can watch your stored movies and access your pictures and data files from anywhere. This ranges from two all the way up to 12 terabytes to keep your favorite tech person going for a long time.

Paper Airplane 2.0

PowerUp paper airplanes may be just the gift for that person who has everything. These are not the airplanes we made as kids, they are a combination of paper and technology. The basic kit comes with a small motor but you still have to supply the paper and the navigation skills. Version 3.0 comes with a Bluetooth enabled module that allows you to control the plane from your smartphone or tablet. This is a Kickstarter project that has gone into production with different products. You can also pre-order the new PowerUp FPV kit that gives you first person view of the flight through a Google Cardboard viewer. There is even a boat for the sailor on your list.

Gift For The Budding Techie

A Raspberry Pi computer is perfect for the budding techie in your life. Made by a UK educational foundation of the same name, this is basically a low cost complete computer on a circuit board. It comes with HDMI and USB ports for connecting input and output devices and can be loaded with a special version of Linux as the basic operating system. There is no disk drive, but everything can be stored on SD cards. It represents a return to basic computing and experimentation. There is an ardent worldwide fan base for this product and no shortage of ideas posted to the web, from robot controllers to music and video servers to Christmas light display hubs. The Raspberry Pi Zero starts at $5 and the Pi 2 B runs $40. I have written before about the maker movement and this gift is a wonderful way to join in the fun.

It’s All In The Gesture

Gest is a wearable device that allows you to control your computer or tablet or smartphone through hand movements. It is still in Kickstarter mode and has been successfully funded so the device can be pre-ordered now. This is an attempt to get away from the traditional keyboard or touchpad. Personally, my fingers don’t seem to be precise when using my smartphone so I am looking forward to trying one of these in the future. This could be that gift that I give to myself.


There are a lot of products available for your tech friends, from the inexpensive to the unaffordable. I have chosen just a few here that I think are reasonable, useful, and sometimes just plain fun. What gifts are you giving your friends this holiday season? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Rise of #GivingTuesday

Photo of hands cradling a decorative red heart.In a recent blog I predicted the end of Cyber Monday but it turns out I was wrong, at least this year. Online retailers had their best sales day ever while Black Friday sales slumped. Perhaps my forecast will improve next year. This year I noticed something new to the holiday season—Giving Tuesday. According to, this movement was started by the 92nd Street Y in New York City in 2012. The concept has grown through social media and has been adopted by charities and other aid organizations as a reminder to give back to the community.

My new prediction is the continued growth of Giving Tuesday and I truly hope that I am right this time. There is an adage, “Where much is given, much is expected.” I know that I have been given much and I try to return that favor on Giving Tuesday and the rest of the year. In this blog, I want to encourage you to think of all that you have and how you can help others during the holiday season and beyond.

Early Lessons

One of my first lessons in giving came through a fifth grade class project. Our class assembled a large fruit basket for elderly residents of a downtown rest home. To select which class members would deliver the basket, the teacher had us choose a number between one and one thousand. I chose the first number that came into my head, which was 365, the number of days in a year. Apparently the teacher and I were on the same wavelength because I nailed it exactly. Four of us took the basket downtown and while I was nervous visiting a rest home for the first time in my life, I noticed that our presence meant even more to the residents than the basket. The gift was symbolic but they loved having us talk with them and spend time getting to know them. It was then I realized that giving of our time and talents often means as much or more than a gift.

Giving Back

Currently I give a lot of my extra time to youth organizations teaching leadership and life skills. I am hoping to influence my future by preparing these young people to lead well as they take over, which will afford me more time on the golf course. In this sense my motives are selfish, but my heart is in the right place. I also serve on a non-profit board of directors helping to provide oversight to a wonderful organization that contributes much to my community. My monetary gifts often go to medical research or directly to an individual who is struggling with health issues. I am careful about directing my money to where I think it can do the most good.

Whether you give time or money, it is important to remember that giving is about helping people and building connections.


I wholeheartedly support Giving Tuesday and the change they are trying to bring about. It helps to focus on giving at least one day out of the year, and hopefully that will inspire giving throughout the year. I would love to hear your stories about how you give back to your community. What causes are you most passionate about? How are you affecting change in your community and the world beyond? Let me know.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Trends In Higher Education: Certificates and Customization

Woman works with laptop, paper and pen.I recently leafed through a course catalog of the local community college and was surprised by the breadth of certification courses. These classes lead to a professional certificate in fields such as psychology, information technology, construction, and mechanical systems. Programs may consist of one course or many courses and are taken in addition to, or in lieu of, a traditional degree program. This is specialized instruction that leads to a specific skill. These certificates show a current or potential employer that you have mastered that skill and are ready to hit the ground running. I think that certificates will become an important tool to differentiate job seekers, so I set out to find out how popular and diverse these programs are.

Certificates vs. MOOCs

Certifications can be taken at the community college, undergraduate, or even graduate level. They often lead to licensure, as in the case of specialty teaching or nursing, or may serve as preparation for taking a certification test, such as those in information technology or engineering. The programs may stand alone without an accompanying degree, or they may be taken in conjunction with an undergraduate or graduate degree. For example, law students may study technology or business to enhance their skills by broadening the experiences. In the same vein, medical students may study bioinformatics to understand and conduct genetic analysis as part of their practice. These are examples of certifications that might give job seekers an edge over other candidates.

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are generally free and do not lead to licensure or certification. Some MOOC courses offer either option and can lead to a certificate for a fee. While these certificates are not generally recognized in the workplace, that could change in the future.

Options Beyond Certificates

Some universities are modifying their traditional degree requirements to meet the changing needs of students. Many students are returning to school or are enrolling later in life after already establishing a career. These students may need more flexibility in the course schedule or in the completion time. Some universities such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute are layering traditional degree programs with experience-based specialties. The college offers a one year master’s of management degree for young graduates, who then have the option of returning after at least two years of industry experience to add an MBA. Offering degrees in stages serves the young graduates looking for management education and returning students looking to add to their previous investment. The key to certificates or specialty degree programs is flexibility and availability of relevant curriculum.

Other schools are moving towards interdisciplinary studies degrees. This may be a combination of business, communications and information management such as the UO AIM Program, or a traditional management, engineering, health care, or law degree that allows students to explore adjacent paths in cyber security or business analytics or telemedicine. Whether these paths lead to a certificate or a degree, they all provide students with particular skills that are needed in the workplace.


Certificate and customizable degree programs allow students to combine the value of a traditional curriculum while gaining the specialized skills that are in demand. I think that this customization will only increase in the future as students seek innovative educational experiences. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

The Consumerization of IT

Photo of businesspeople using devices.It used to be that information technology was the domain of specialists. In the last 10 years, the adoption of new technology has shifted to the consumer and not the enterprise. As a result, employees who were accustomed to using technology at home pushed for adoption in the workplace. This left IT groups scrambling to adapt their policies and applications to work with consumer devices and software, not always willingly.

This consumerization of technology inspired the popularity of bring your own device (BYOD) to work. The two main concerns over this trend are first and foremost security and second, compatibility with corporate applications. While it is desirable to access data and applications anytime, anywhere, and on any device, it is not always easy or safe. In this blog post I will look at the history and future trends of the IT consumerization. Will we continue as we have, or will the enterprise once again take the lead in new technology adoption?


Computers were originally used in government and businesses for things such as bomb trajectory calculations in World War II, tabulating voters’ ballots for presidential elections, and organizing corporate accounting activities. Operators and programmers were in charge of running the computers and any task or requests had to be fed through them. The query results came as printouts, not displayed on a desktop screen. Even as late as the mid-1980s I remember working in a large computer room where we printed stacks of paper that were set outside the computer room to be retrieved. Only computer operators and technicians were allowed inside the room. Access to the computers was through dumb terminals as input and the generated paper results as output.

Personal Computers

Apple and other companies sold computers to hobbyists in the late 1970s. While this was technically a consumer product, it was considered a niche market. When IBM introduced the personal computer in 1981, it was targeting the corporate employee, not individual consumers. When user-friendly word processing and spreadsheet software became available, consumers began buying computers for home use.


Without connecting the home computer to the outside world, people were still left with the same problem of input and output. Input came through the keyboard or from a disk, and the output came to a printer or screen or to another disk. The disks had limited capacity so to share a program or data, one had to have multiple disks that were hopefully labeled correctly. With early dial-up modems, people could finally share information (not graphics, that would take forever) with each other. As consumer networks improved, so did our desire to connect and share things with each other and the lines between work and home began to blur.

The Tipping Point

The tipping point for the consumerization of IT came with smartphones and tablets. Laptops were certainly more mobile and could go back and forth from home to work, but the smartphone and tablet made it even easier to live in both worlds. IT departments initially rejected tablets as not being robust and secure enough for the enterprise. The smartphone was even worse because it was so portable. Blackberry was one of the pioneers in bridging the gap between corporate e-mail and information systems and consumer devices. Salespeople and executives could receive information while they were with a client instead of waiting for a computer operator to process a request. It was a whole new world that continues to evolve.


In my Information Systems class we talk about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and the tools that we need to deploy, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM), in order to integrate consumer devices into the workplace. The key for technology departments is adaptability. The lines are blurred and the genie is not going back in the bottle so we need to make sure our data and enterprise are secure while working with these devices.

In a possible reversal of trends, Deloitte predicts what they call the re-enterprization of IT in the next few years. They point to current technologies such as wearables, 3D printing, and drones being embraced by the enterprise as evidence of that reversal. I am skeptical that the consumer trend is changing just yet but I will keep my eyes open.


Has the consumerization of IT helped you in your work or has it caused you pain as you deal with the consequences? I don’t miss the days of wearing a separate pager and I love being able to access data from any device at any time. I also realize the work that goes into the back end to make this access seamless and I appreciate the efforts of technologists who build bridges between consumer devices and the enterprise. Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.