Whether it is for business or pleasure, we all expect to be able to connect and communicate instantly anywhere, anytime. Unified Communications and collaboration technology is enabling the world to connect seamlessly. It is becoming easy and familiar. Yet we are at a crossroads. How does an individual or corporation balance privacy and openness? Can it even be done?
The up and coming generation knows only the open environment. Even the youngest ones can operate remote controls, interact with iPads, and play computer games, all before they can speak a coherent sentence. Those in secondary education and college are familiar with virtual classrooms and friending thousands of people on Facebook. The seemingly limitless virtual world is an integral part of their real world. As they become employees, the likely result will be an interesting generational clash between these young technologists and the experienced workforce. Interestingly, the clash isn’t so much about capabilities, because those can be learned, as it is about one’s perception of privacy.
What is the new normal? What information is considered private? What are the boundaries?
Consider Facebook and its influence on privacy. Says Network World, “the mountain of highly detailed personal information the company is sitting on is larger than anything ever amassed by any company or government in history.” And it is all self-reported and readily shared. What company wouldn’t want access to this treasure trove?
There is a culture shift in which people are getting comfortable sharing personal information, and it’s not just on Facebook. Blogs, user forums, online community groups, Yelp – the opportunities are endless for one to share their point of view or personal information.
UC in the workplace is also shifting the perception of privacy. With Instant Messaging, presence, video and web conferencing, mobile integration, and video telephony, not only can people reach you at any time, they know where you are. This is the new normal. The perception is, if you can’t be reached, there is a problem. In fact, many workers today feel the necessity to always be “on” – almost an “unofficial” requirement for doing business.
So what is acceptable in terms of privacy? In the healthcare industry, new doctors are counseled on the use of social media. Friending patients on Facebook is discouraged or prohibited; doctors are encouraged to manage their online profile to ensure photos and other content is not incongruent with their professional reputation; and there are restrictions on the type of information that can be shared online, even in private doctor/patient portals. Growing up in an environment of openness and sharing, some younger doctors feel these guidelines are too restrictive.
The line is a gray one. Society is reshaping the boundaries of what is acceptable, and enterprise IT is left to balance accessibility, privacy, and security, while enabling the free flow of information necessary for employees to collaborate and for companies to excel.