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Data, Data - Who's Got The Data?

Posted on May 08, 2006

By Mark Jordan

Our industry has struggled more than many in adopting new technologies over the past few years. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think, and no doubt you have many of your own. The fact remains that cost management and job efficiency will continue to define key job expectations for the near future, and it is this area that the few remaining major tech companies have targeted.

There are good reasons to closely examine these spend management products, and those have all been hashed over ad infinitum in the press as well as company promotional materials. What have not been closely examined up to now are some of the things that I think will provide real challenges in the next five years. Some of these topics include ethical issues such as disclosure and conflict of interest, the true cost of implementation and its impact on process and function, software performance and data privacy/ownership. I’d like to start with data privacy and ownership today, and use tomorrow to deal with some of the ethical questions that come to mind. From there, we’ll see where the discussion flows.

Because most of the spend management technologies are Internet-based, all of your meetings-related data could potential reside outside the security zone created by the systems on the inside of your firewall. How do you ensure the safety and protection of your data? Do you use technology experts to test and validate a vendor’s system security? What types of contract language do you use to protect your information from improper usage? More to the point, if your data includes specific customer information, how do you protect that customer? If the vendor should fold, what plan is there to guarantee the security of your information? If the vendor is bought by another company, is your information "transferable," meaning that the new company has the right to continue using it under the terms of your original agreement, even if you’re not sure you want that new owner to have access to your data. What are the penalties for violating the terms of your agreement, and how do you know when a violation has occurred? Most importantly, what is your data worth, and how do you define that worth.

I may weigh in with more thoughts later, but I’d sure like to see some of what you’re thinking on the issue…..


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Joan Eisenstodt

Mark - good post. Kelly Bagnall, a Dallas attorney in our (hospitality/meetings) industry and I have done many sessions on privacy issues and data. What we've both learned over about 3 years of doing such sessions is how not secure data is - in hotel systems or those used for registration. We have also learned in the course of presenting programs on this subject that few if any meeting planners (and those who work in the hotels on whose websites the information resides) have read the privacy policies posted. I think that "data security breaches" are almost the least of the problem. More of a concern is the selling of data from a hotel system to other vendors. Will people begin to "get it" and speak up?

Amy Sherwood

Hello Mark and Joan,

I think 2005 brought a whole new level of public awareness to privacy with the Choicepoint breach in January. Before it was something that compliance officers and lawyers concerned themselves with. With the public now concerned with ID Theft and possible federal legislation on the horizon I anticipate more and more sectors, including hospitality, will have no other choice than to get informed. We have seen many more people attending our privacy events, first those in Financial Services and Healthcare and now more retail and other industries. There is a learning curve for sure!

Joan Eisenstodt

Glad you jumped in on this Amy. It wasn't just ChoicePoint - many universities and even Marriott's vacation club and others have had major breaches in privacy of their data.

There are also issues of my privacy as a guest at a hotel. I'm a frequent traveler so many hotels know the types of pillows I prefer, even the room service orders I've placed, etc. They can take that information and sell it to companies that perhaps match my "consumption"/use pattern and have them market to me. Now information about me is "out there" and I have no control. On the one hand, I'm pleased that amazon can recommend books to me; on the other, I feel like I have millions of "new best friends" who know all about me. As planners, we have to know how the information about those who attend the meetings we manage are going to be secure .. or not.


..right now, assuming I am ready to plan a trip to Central America in April and want the best deal.

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