Governance and the keys to the kingdom

Governance. Wikipedia calls it “the way the rules, norms and actions are produced, sustained, regulated and held accountable.”

(coincidentally enough, as at April 2016, the entry on governance also notes that the article needs attention from an expert in Philosophy or Business. No shit, it took 3 paragraphs for the Wiki entry to get to that single definition.)

Accountability is the key. Governance is something that is going to become a much more known word in the next few years in business, but potentially in consumer thinking.

The Apple/FBI case, which is still bubbling along (although more quietly now) could be core to this evolution. To sum up, after the December 2015 San Bernadino extremism-driven shootings, the FBI tried unsuccessfully to get into the shooter’s iPhone. So they demanded that Apple deliver an adapted version of iOS to allow them to get into the phone, using an almost century old Writ to justify their demand and belief that the phone held valuable case information.

Apple refused, saying that it compromised security and basic privacy at an unprecedented level, courts got involved, and eventually the FBI ‘realised’ that they could just hire a third party firm to surreptitiously crack the phone and get the data. And they are now assisting other government agencies in cases involving getting data off phones.

Meanwhile, Apple are now left to demand that the FBI reveal the method, and/or to try and work out what technical hole to close. Tricky.

So what has that to do with everyone else? Everything.

First of all, we have the interesting branching possibilities of precedent that, by helping the US government, Apple open themselves up to every government in the world with an interest in private data held on Apple’s systems/servers/devices. Apple has major offices in many jurisdictions, each with a differing interest and interpretation of privacy and security. How could Apple balance those demands? By putting up a definitive wall, Apple has placed itself as more closely aligned with the interests of the user, than their own governments. In essence, using an Apple device could allow a user to bypass their government’s legal interests (note, interpretedly differing from legal requirements).

What is also starting to evolve here is a future for Apple and the industry. There’s been some questions about the future of Apple under Tim Cook, who is less visionary in product as Steve Jobs. But, Tim Cook is a smart CEO. And he’s also more fringe than Jobs – in that his sexuality has an emotional ring at a time when sexuality is a hot topic. He understands, and has been pushing, the idea that Apple protects the individual’s rights to privacy, and data.

Could we see a new future for Apple here? Where they once made ‘mobile’ commonplace, could they do the same with a service driven future. Heck, could they make ‘infosec’ (information security) as essential to our lives as sharing. They’re certainly not the first company to try this, and there’s a steady growth in password protection services (eg Lastpass, who I use) but with Apple’s gorilla sized self-economy, could make it far more visible than anyone else, especially if supported by Google.

We could see a future where the same brand loyalty attributed to the iPhone and physical product, is transferred and driven by PAAS (Product as a Service) around security services. I believe that they are already heading down this path with their use of iOS – they are using and treating version releases with an increasing reverence, both as continuous improvement, but also marketing wise – in delivering a stronger, more driven product.

There’s also a very interesting branch here, and this is where governance comes in. We are increasingly contributing more data to the likes of Apple and Google – Health, Pay, Mail, Maps. As they work to make this a badge of pride for a user, what happens with accountability?

Where, and who, is accountable for our actual data when it’s spread and driven at this level? There’s a very solid set of legal discussion in this arena around sovereignty – who ‘owns’ the data when it’s no longer a file in a cabinet. The massive Panama Papers leaks are a perfect example of this – there’s still a paper trail, funnelled through a legal firm.

What happens when ‘hard to trace’ roundabouts of paperwork become ‘impossible to trace’, because of a mixture of high level encryption owned by a secretive global company, and the fact that the global company may be licensing services from another multitude of equally secretive global companies.

Where does a legal system even start, when that legal system still operates on a century-old method (just observe the Courts for a day and witness the literal boxes of paperwork still shuttled around by hand).

As a culture, we haven’t developed the comprehension of this shift and what that means for our ability to access what we need when/how we want it. We are at a tipping point – while our society is embracing an always connected and accessible approach, we need to also ensure that we place some walls of our own devising.

Always accessible is, in theory, enticing due to speed and the democratisation of information. But it’s also dangerous – discovery works both ways – one can find, and be found. This has implications for child protection, financial, home security and identity theft. I feel that this information SHOULD be discoverable, through some method. However, that method needs to be governed (governance, natch) through the protection of a system.

It seems that Government is going through its own transformation at the moment – with trust in government low, foreign policy morally questionable, domestic policy just as divisive. Are Corporates any better? Especially tech companies, with deep pockets and youthful idealism at their core. Is the nature of being shareholder driven, and market driven, a better protection of working for the interests of the people?

I know Malcolm Turnbull would be happy with me for that idea.

I do believe it’s time for something similar to W3C, which exists to develop standards to protect the world wide web. Let’s call it the global governance group, or GGG, to set similar standards for governance and infosec processes. Something like Blockchain is already knocking on the doors of setting some interesting standards around crowdsourced privacy protection. Very cool.

This is where Apple, and Google, need to innovate next.

2 thoughts on “Governance and the keys to the kingdom

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