“Seek and destroy” is a military term (or a Metallica song, depending on your preference) which has a direct correlation to how I feel about file shares. In my experience, Federal Agencies are data rich and information poor. Agencies, such as the NSA, store vast quantities of data without determining what data holds value and what is outdated or stale. Distinguishing data types is easier said than done.

  • Do you classify it?
  • Do you tag it?
  • Do you filter it?
  • Do you alphabetize it?
  • Is it by date?

These questions can feel overwhelming, which contributes to the growing problem of data hoarding.

All Data Isn’t Created Equal

Not only do you have to decide what data is important and warrants keeping – but you also need to consider the sensitivity of the data your agency is handling. The largest fundamental change we’ve seen in our private sector clients is the realization that data needs to be treated differently. For example, logs of who is coming in and out of your office should have different security measures in place when compared with employee HR files.

“Every agency, depending on its mission, has these great stores of data,” says Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues at the Government Accountability Office. “And some of it – maybe even much of it – is very sensitive.”

Sensitive information, for example, social security numbers, phone numbers, maiden name, etc. is all over federal networks. In fact, this year we have found unsecure PII/PHI material at every federal client we’ve worked with.

Sorting Data the Right Way

Tackling mountains of data is no easy task. It’s impossible to do manually. File analysis is the methodology by which you segregate information you need from information that poses a risk (redundant, obsolete or trivial data.) At Active Navigation, we deploy cutting edge software to help you become both data AND information rich. We look at material thematics and natural language processing. We determine what information you use regularly, what information you need to conduct your day-to-day business, and what information can be removed (such as orphaned data.) You can’t do your job unless you have accurate information.

The government understands the ever-increasing importance of having accurate information on hand, which is why it’s developed the Federal Data Strategy, a coordinated approach to federal data use and management that serves the public. Even with a coordinated, structured approach, what can be done about all the data that has already been created which is lying dormant?

Data Privacy and Governance: Save Money and Problems

We’ve heard that using encryption is the solution. And yes – encryption is a good thing – but can’t be the only solution. You want to encrypt data when it’s at rest and when it’s in motion. However, it all comes full circle. Even in a world where you encrypt everything, you want to make sure you’re encrypting the right information. This is a problem agency’s encounter when they have infinite amounts of junk data. They either don’t encrypt enough, or they encrypt everything but as a result, frustrates the end user because it slows down their systems.

Growing Privacy Regulations

Data accumulation and hoarding is not just a problem in the US government – it’s a worldwide issue. The European Union has led the way with GDPR, the Global Data Protection Regulation. One of the principles of GDPR is data minimization. The EU has signalled the need to clean up data for privacy purposes. Although we do not (yet) have a Federal law we’re already seeing the growth of privacy regulations California, Colorado, and New York.  The California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) is looking to build on GDPR for Californian residents.

As stated in a 2017 CIO Council report, “Efficiently managing government data and information can increase operational efficiencies, reduce costs, improve services, and better safeguard personal information.” We couldn’t agree more. If you want to learn more about what data you’re storing in your agency, contact Active Navigation today to join our proof of concept program.