Google has been in the news recently for their wireless network (Wi-Fi) data collection process, creating a firestorm of controversy that has resulted in some rather bad PR for the company. As a small business owner, there are a few lessons you can take away from this situation when you observe how people are reacting to this news, and when you realize what the real issue is.
A Little Background
In case you haven’t heard, Google is in a bit of hot water in the way they have been collecting data via their Street View cars. Google has a fleet of vehicles that operate around the world, collecting data from Wi-Fi base stations, just like the kind you have in your home. They collect basic data that identifies the base station and its location, so that this information can help you be located when you are using a service such as Google Maps.
The information that Google collects, and uses, is the unique identifier for the Wi-Fi base station and GPS coordinates of the station. However, if Google encounters a Wi- Fi base station that is not encrypted, then it also collected other information, including personal data. They claim this extraneous data collection was a mistake and they are not using this personal information at all. Despite these claims, many State Attorney Generals are investigating the matter, and several class action lawsuits are in the works.
If you understand what is really going on, then you know that what Google did by collecting this data is something that anyone can do. The problem lies in the fact that certain people do not turn on Wi-Fi encryption, which means their data is broadcast in the clear for anyone to see. The problem is quite easily solved by use of Wi-Fi encryption, something any modern base station is capable of.
How does this relate to the way you run your business? Keep reading to find out what you can learn from this whole fiasco.
Don’t Accept the Default
The reason why Google was able to collect personal information is because the Wi-Fi base station owners offered up the information by not having wireless encryption turned on. Most base station manufacturers have encryption turned off by default, which creates less technical support hassles for them. If you don’t know any better, then you leave your wireless base station as is, in the default mode, with encryption off.
As a business owner, you should never accept the default for most situations. If you don’t understand what is going on, then educate yourself or get expert advice. Don’t assume that others have your best interest in mind. Most likely, they have their best interest in mind, which may or may not align with your best interests. If you don’t know what you are getting yourself into, then put things on hold until you fully understand what is going on.
Take the Necessary Precautions
If you choose to leave your Wi-Fi signal unencrypted, either as a conscious effort or because you don’t know any better, you are looking for trouble. By not taking the necessary security precautions, you are exposing yourself to a potential world of hurt by giving the world access to your personal information.
Are you taking the necessary precautions for your business? Do you have the right type of insurance coverage, or are you just hoping for the best? Do you have your finger on the pulse of your company, or are you flying blind, hoping your employees will do what’s right for your company? Do you have contingency plans in place in case something goes awry, or are you just hoping that Plan A works because you have no Plan B?
You may get lucky with your business if you are doing the bare minimum to get by, but most likely, without having contingency plans in place, your business is on a collision course with failure.
Many of those that feel they have been wronged by Google’s data collection methods are jumping on the lawsuit bandwagon instead of admitting they didn’t take the right precautions. State Attorney Generals are investigating Google instead of realizing the real problem is unsecured Wi-Fi networks. People are pointing the finger instead of accepting responsibility.
When things go bad in your business, you need to accept responsibility for the part you play instead of trying to point your finger at a third party. You need to find out what the root cause of the problem was and correct it. If there is something that your business can do better in the future to reduce the chance of the same thing happening again, then take the necessary steps. Looking for someone to blame does not help the issue. Find out what the problem is and address it instead of pointing fingers.
As you hear about news events, learn how to take lessons away from them that can help your business. There are many things in your daily life that you can learn from, at both a personal and business level. Take advantage of the free lessons life puts in front of you to make your business that much more successful.
About the Author:
Marshall Davis created Talking Small Biz as a website that reviews products and business support services that help small business owners start, run and grow their company.