Wednesday, 14 November 2012

17:48 from Paddington

I was planning on starting this blog by talking about my journey through BI, but instead I'm going to talk about a different journey that highlights some relevant points.

This story is based on events on the 17:48 train from Paddington last Wednesday, this isn't a verbatim transcript, but it gives you the idea.  

In the UK people are rightly very sensitive about the use of their personal data, particularly in the area of health, yet are perfectly prepared to broadcast the details to all in ear shot.  A pair of people were heading home after one of them had clearly been for a consultation about quite a serious matter.  Their companion then proceeded to ring the rest of the family to let them know the news.  In doing this of course they were then relating this individuals medical history to the 20 or so people in ear shot.  

This got me thinking about how many people have double standards on the value and security of their data.  While I was thinking about this topic I was then gifted a piece of solid gold.  

A particularly loud individual two rows in front decided to continue his working day on the way home and make the phone calls he hadn't had time for earlier in the day.  His first call was to a collegue, discussing a new opportunity, so he's probably connected with sales.  Following this he then named the customer who the opportunity was with and wanted to make sure that his collegue had recorded the opportunity so they secure their 5%.  So now I know the name of a potential customer and the sales markup.  They then discussed the performance of one of their team members, Dave it would appear your star  is no longer rising.  So our friend on the train is clearly a senior player in the sales organisation.  

The next call is to collegue on business in Brussles who he named, so hello Brian you are now slotted into this jigsaw as well.  At this point they mentioned a product name, so a brief google on my iPhone later and I've identified the organisation you are selling for.  

There then followed a more personal conversation, with 'darling', I'll see you next Monday at a named London hotel.  

So a brief recap, at this point we know a product name, a client name, a markup, a subordinates first name, and the existence of darling.  The next call revealed another client name, another product range, another team member and the total margin on a deal.  

The conversation then turned to rearranging the distribution model, so this was clearly someone in the organisation, not just a reseller.  So linked in, can you help?  A few blind alleys and I get a set of hits that lineup the names, so Mr X I'm 90%  certain I know who you are.  Then the interesting call, "yes I'm sorry darling, I was tied up with work so I haven't been able to call, yes I'll be home later".  Rather revealing, weren't you talking to darling earlier?  

So after finding all this out I then noticed the stop you got off at, is worth a shot?   That's the address sorted.  

So, I know who you are, I know you are having an affair, I know who you work for, I know two of your customers names and the markups, I know your team members who are on their way out, I know where you are meeting next Monday, and I know your current distributors are in the firing line.  

Next time you need to make that call in public, you might want to think about who the 20 or so people are in ear shot.  By joining the dots and using external data it's possible to deduce far more than the raw data suggests, in essence that is what we data professionals aim to do every day.  In my next post I'll explore where this particular data feed might take us.

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