Let’s start with a question. Who knows you best? Your spouse, friend, boss or… Google? Admit it, you know the answer. Google has the ability to capture, store and use all your likes, interests, purchases, comments, documents, emails, photos, personal information and aesthetic preferences. This collection of data is known in the cyber world as your personal data profile. Depending on its contents, your data profile could be very helpful or very damaging.

Data mining companies, for example, often hunt out these personal portraits and provide them to employers who can use that information to decide whether to hire or fire you. We are on the brink of having our personal data profiles affect our ability to make important decisions in our lives (getting a job, buying a car, procuring a loan, etc.).

The Company Data Profile

Now, what if we translated that to an entire company of employees? If you were to compile all of the Google searches, sites visited, emails exchanged, Tweets / DMs / text messages sent, documents written, and phone messages left in a given day, week, month or year at your company, what terms would rank highest? What themes would emerge about the nature and character of your company? You'd see organizational hopes and fears, aspirations and failures, all in one big data grab.

When a data mining company pools a large number of employee data profiles, that’s a company data profile. And just like personal data profiles, company profiles can be either beneficial or detrimental. For company executives looking to know more about their organization, it provides a treasure trove of information. It can certainly paint a positive picture for prospective clients or employees as well.

But from a legal perspective, the data can be used by adversaries in the e-Discovery process. All that information in a company profile can be deemed discoverable by the courts. It only takes one employee mishap to turn that company profile into a damaging piece of evidence against you.

Who Should Manage, Control and Govern Corporate Data?

Which brings us to an interesting question regarding corporate data: who owns its management, control and governance? Historically, this responsibility has fallen into the lap of IT. However, with such large company implications within that data, business executives should have an interest in monitoring and preserving it as well.

Additionally, there is a growing awareness from various departments with differing needs (legal, marketing, HR) of the necessity of assessing the collective repository of company data: Marketing wants brand / reputation management access; HR wants to know what employees are up to; Legal wants to know what business liabilities might be lurking on the horizon. All data desires point to a greater need: to collect, sort and catalog company data in a central, easily accessed, searchable, secure repository.

It’s all part of the reason smart companies are getting proactive toward e-Discovery. Not only can you locate and use your own company data more easily, but you’ll also save yourself those excessive last minute legal costs in the event of a lawsuit.

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