Friday 12 November 2010

Depending on the kindness of strangers

It’s that time of the year when the corporate gift season gets into full swing. There can be few readers who haven’t at some stage in their career (or even this month) received a small gift as a token of appreciation for attending some corporate event or another.

Same with me.

My last two gifts were very appropriate.

First up was a data protection event sponsored by Sophos, the security specialists. As its website proudly proclaims: Trusted by 100 million users and endorsed by industry analysts as a leader, Sophos provides a full range of endpoint, encryption, email, web and NAC solutions that are simple to deploy, manage and use.

Their gift was a very handy book which, in just over 100 pages, explained in language that even my mother might understand, all a busy person really needed to know about security threats, security software, safety tips and how to avoid computer viruses. It’s the ideal primer if ever you were required to blag your way into an IT security conference and appear authentic.

Second up was a data protection event sponsored by Bird & Bird, the international commercial law firm which operates on the basis of an in-depth understanding of key industry sectors. As its website proudly proclaims: Our leading International Privacy & Data Protection Practice advises a wide range of corporate and other organisations around the world, reflecting the firm’s strengths in sectors such as Communications, Media, E-commerce, Financial Services, Health and IT.

Their gift was a pair of USB drives, suitably endorsed with the Bird & Bird logo. Woops. They weren’t in a sealed package so I wasn’t sure if they had been tampered with. (But of course I trust the team at Bird & Bird.) Nor were they encrypted USB drives – and we all know what the Information Commissioner’s Office thinks about personal data being transported when it’s not encrypted. Never mind – the session, on cookies, was being hosted by a former Deputy Information Commissioner, so surely their marketing team had checked the suitability of the gift with him before they ordered them ... Well, they certainly will do next time!

I don’t mean to be spiteful or overly critical about Bird & Bird – after all, their data protection advice is invariably of the highest quality, and they hold wonderful parties.

My point is that we data protection professionals should be careful when offering – or accepting – electronic storage media as we’ve all read the horror stories that abound. But never in my career as a recipient of corporate gifts have I been offered a USB drive that was either packaged and protected with a tamper proof seal, or accompanied with a warranty that it didn’t contain any spyware or computer viruses. And haven’t we all both received and presented a number of these USB drives to colleagues at various corporate events over the last few years?

Anyway, I am extremely grateful for both sets of gifts, and I can assure any future givers that I will most humbly thank them for their present and that I will try to make good use of it.

Especially when I unwrap the gift and it reveals itself to be a bar of chocolate.