We all like to Google our names occasionally, don’t we? But when I took a peek the other day, I found an entry that gave me quite a shock. For there, among embarrassing 25-year-old features for The Independent and a pic of a bass guitar I flogged in 2012, was a reproduction of an email from one PR person I’ve never heard of to another, asking for my phone number, and the response, giving said number.
I have no idea how or why these messages were posted online, but they brought home to me very vividly that keeping confidential information, er, confidential is becoming a Canutesque challenge in the digital age. And if that is a hard enough task for one person, what about a corporation with thousands of employees?
I ask because, right now, I am seeing data security emerge as a major concern in corporate travel. The debate is particularly lively in Germany – where, perhaps, experience of Nazi and then Stasi surveillance has made individuals and companies alike acutely sensitive about privacy. German travel managers have proved very hostile to Prism, the data aggregator to which some carriers insist corporate clients supply detailed booking records if they want a negotiated discount. Also, following the Edward Snowden revelations about surveillance by the US National Security Agency – not least the tapping of Chancellor Merkel’s phone – German companies are getting twitchy about where travel providers store their data. In some cases, if the answer is the US, they are beginning to look at other service providers.
Cybercrime is another worry. Who can forget last year’s embarrassment when travel security provider International SOS had to notify clients that its traveller information database in the US had been breached?
In consequence, travel managers are asking a lot more questions about how their data is protected and who has access to it. The problem is that following the travel data trail is brain-achingly complex. There are so many intermediaries, who in turn use so many third-party processors, that it’s almost impossible to ring-fence.
Since corporate activity these days seems to focus on risk management, I’d have thought it at least worth discussing this issue with your company’s data privacy officer. And chat to your security department, too, to assess just how safe travellers’ mobile devices and laptops are. In extreme cases, companies are barring employees from taking their regular kit to countries such as China and Russia. They are required instead to take devices carrying little or no information, which are then thoroughly ‘cleaned’, or even discarded, on return.
There are many other warnings travellers need to be given, though one would think some of them obvious, such as not accessing your company intranet from public computers. The US government’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Centre warned in July that it had arrested a Dallas-based gang who obtained a wealth of personal data by using secretly installed malware to log users’ keystrokes on hotel PCs.
I was going to suggest hotel guests should stick to Googling their names instead but, given what I found in my little search, even that could arm baddies with enough info to locate and burgle hotel guests’ homes while they are away. Perhaps just take a suitcase-full of carrier pigeons if you wish to communicate confidentially…
POP THE CHAMPAGNE CORKS and let fly the streamers because the exciting news in Travel-land is that Iberia has recently created its own scent to spray around its cabins. Mediterráneo de Iberia, we are told, contains “notes of fruit, flowers and wood, and a touch of citrus: lemon, orange, bergamot and mandarin”.
Wouldn’t it be great though if you could create scents that remind you of what flying really smells like? How about L’Eau Cost, a heady combo of lager, vomit and cheap after-shave to recall the stag party you were lucky enough to coincide with on a Friday morning flight to the nether regions of Europe? I might give Chanel a call and see if they’re interested.