Businesses the world over generate lots of data from their day to day operations. The uptake of digital tools has seen the exponential growth in what is output as it is possible to collect and measure every action and interaction from the business process. There is a percentage of what is collected that is not actively or immediately utilized either because the technology to extract its value is not yet optimal or more commonly because it was collected or just in case. What happens over time is that businesses end up with a healthy trove of unstructured data that just sits there presenting both an opportunity and risk.
Information technology research and advisory firm Gartner is credited with creating the term “dark data”, defined in its glossary as “information assets organizations collect, process and store during regular business activities, but generally fail to use for other purposes; for example, analytics, business relationships and direct monetization”. Any data, within context can be abused and a breach on a subset, structured or not, poses the greatest threat to business continuity, competitive and reputation; more so that storage has moved to the cloud where hits on corporate infrastructure by both hobbyist and hardcore hackers are a daily occurrence. Securing these assets should be an active endeavor with encryption and access control as the baseline actions.
We now have better, more affordable tools to mine data and a good move for any organization that has aged repositories is to, plough through them to extract new insights and at the same time lend some organization to them through a process that will be adopted on any new inflows. This is also a good time to think through policies surrounding data retention. Consumers, who in many respects are the trigger to creation of the data, are more aware and vigilant about their rights especially pertaining to information even when implicit, that may be personally identifying.
Audit your archives, aggregate, sanitize, contextualize, classify, secure and where not new value can be derived, discard.