Agency CIOs Need to Be Aware of the Dangers of Consumer Tech

bloomua/Shutterstock.com

Agency CIOs must be cautious when procuring IT products developed for consumers.

Jeff Gould is president of SafeGov.org and CEO and director of research at Peerstone Research.

We’ve all heard about the benefits of consumerized IT for large organizations. Consumer technology is more innovative and faster moving than its enterprise counterpart. Just look at Apple, Google or Facebook and compare them to IBM, Oracle or SAP.

There is some truth in these claims. Consumer tech product cycles do move faster, in part because they are freed from the constraining requirements of backward compatibility and technical stability imposed on the enterprise. Consumer tech consists mostly of highly interactive websites or mobile apps that update themselves without being asked and increasingly runs on inexpensive devices destined to become obsolete only a year or two after release.

The intense disruptive pressure exercised by consumer tech on enterprise IT has undeniably benefited the latter, forcing it to modernize and make itself more accessible to users, system managers and developers alike.

Beyond “webification” or “appification,” the greatest positive impact of consumer tech on the enterprise undoubtedly lies in the move from premises-based computing to the cloud. While the transition is still in its early stages, it is difficult to doubt the economic and technical advantages of consolidating the IT assets of many organizations into a few large data centers managed by specialized firms.

Despite these benefits, the consumerization of enterprise IT also has drawbacks.

Contrary to common belief, the problem is not security. Consumer tech and cloud data centers are no more vulnerable to hackers and accidental breaches than traditional enterprise IT shops. On the contrary, greater scale and scope of cloud operations require resources to deploy the best security expertise and tools available. This attribute will arguably make the cloud a safer platform for enterprises to secure their most valuable information than in-house facilities.

The real danger of consumer IT lies not in its technology, but in its advertising-based business model and vendor control of how products are used. The consumer Web and app economy, dominated by firms like Google and Facebook, is all about advertising. Giant Web firms earn their billions through the relentless tracking and profiling of users.

The controversy that has dogged Google in its effort to repackage consumer services like Gmail for government and education users under the Google Apps and Google for Work brands serves as a cautionary example.

A year ago, after heavy media criticism, Google announced it had “permanently removed all ads scanning in Gmail for Apps for Education” and promised to make “similar changes for all our Google Apps customers, including Business and Government users.”

Google did not explain why it had failed to remove ad scanning from its apps at the outset before offering them to schools and government agencies. This functional gap between consumer tech and enterprise requirements is a common pitfall IT managers must guard against.

Another drawback of consumer IT is the tight control vendors exercise over how their products are used, which conflicts with enterprise requirements for flexibility and customization. A recent case in point is Samsung’s Knox suite of security applications for Android smartphones and tablets. Samsung has made an admirable effort to layer enterprise-like encryption features on top of a consumer operating system created by Google to maximize its mobile advertising revenue. But it has proven difficult for Samsung to extract Android from the consumer market.

Google does not allow device makers like Samsung to build in features Google has not approved, particularly if those features compete with Google’s own services. The European Commission has even launched an antitrust investigation of Google for this practice, which the EC alleges is an abuse.

Perhaps even worse, Google itself does not control the distribution of Android or its updates to consumers. Rather, to maximize its market share, it has handed off that critical job to wireless carriers like Verizon or AT&T. As a result, users of Verizon-supplied Android devices recently found that Samsung’s Knox was automatically disabled when the carrier decided to update devices to the latest Lollipop version of Android.

In short, while the benefits of IT consumerization are real, the “impedance mismatch” between consumer and enterprise requirements remains a constant source of risk and uncertainty for IT managers. In this context, the old saying retains all of its relevance: “Let the buyer beware.”

(Image via Bloomua/ Shutterstock.com)

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.