got privacy?  Musings on the state of Privacy in a connected world.
 
A little bit off topic, but having just got back from RSA, and with a bunch of other conferences coming up, I thought I would share this checklist that I pulled together a while ago.  Conferences are usually expensive, and you can miss out on many opportunities if you just attend the sessions and then go home. This checklist gives you some tips on how you can maximize the time that you spend at a conference and make sure that you walk away with more than just another folder for your shelf.

Before the Conference

  • Plan which sessions to attend.  Note who the speakers are for all of the sessions as well as the content (you generally have access to this information before the conference).  Check for target clients, alliance partners and competitors and decide whether it’s worth going to a presentation to be able to get to talk to someone from a key target, or to find out what they are doing. 
  • Sort out your logistics.  Book flights that give you time to get to the conference allowing for flight delays.  If the conference is in a hotel (and they often are), try to make sure that you stay in that hotel to a) get the special discounts that the conference will obtain for you and b) make it a lot easier for you to get between your room and the sessions.
  • Clear your ‘to-do’ list.  Easier said than done, but taking conference calls during the sessions and working in the breaks means missing networking opportunities and not getting value for money.
  • Divide and Conquer.  Try to find out if anyone else from your company is attending the conference, make contact with them and try to split target sessions between you, compare notes etc.
  • Take a lot of business cards. They're easy to carry, and if you don't use them, so what?
  • Know what to say.  Sooner or later, someone will ask you about your company.  Work out what you are going to say about the firm and your role.
 During The Conference

  • Timing is everything.  Try to be around in the general area before the sessions start and during breaks.  You never know who you might meet, or what you might find out.
  • Be an Ambassador.  If appropriate for the dress code, consider wearing branded (or otherwise 'conversation worthy' clothing so that you’re noticeable).  At RSA, a woman walked up to me and literally asked for the shirt off my back.  Note: This is not always a good thing - and I do have witnesses!
  • Work out what you want to get out of each session.  Do you want to talk to the speaker afterwards?  Would you like a demonstration?  How does the session add to what you already know?
  • Collect business cards.  When you speak to someone, who you might want to contact again, be sure to collect a business card.  Write on the back a little about that person (business & personal info), what you discussed and any other useful information to jog your memory when you get back.
  • Enter all vendor raffles.  You never know what you might win.
  • Work the crowd.  Sit next to different people at each session and introduce yourself to them.  If possible, review the attendee list and be strategic in who you sit next to.
  • Maintain a ‘to do’ list.  Whenever something strikes you as interesting or you should follow up on, make sure you write it down and then action it when you return to your office.
 After the Conference

  • Get business cards into your CRM system.  A business card in your bag is not much use.  In your company CRM system, it shows other people who come into contact with that person who else knows them.  
  • Follow up.  Write personalized emails where appropriate to people that you met, either sending them information that might be of value to them, or suggesting a follow up discussion or meeting.
  • Be timely.  Make follow-up calls / emails within a week of the end of the conference.
  • Keep your CPE certificate.  You may be audited one day and be glad you did.
  • Share your knowledge.  Tell other people in the office what you found interesting, and keep the course material in a place that other people can use it. 

    Congratulations!  If you follow these steps then you will find that you get a lot more out of conferences, both for yourself and the company.
 
 
While many organizations have a strong desire to make their web-sites useable and accessible for as many people as possible, most likely do not realize that this can result in some loss of privacy for users.

Accessibility can work in a number of ways, either through active involvement by a user choosing certain options on the site, or passively without direct user interaction through good site design, color palette selection and similar.  Where active involvement by a user is required, this may be achieved either with them making a conscious choice at the time of using a site, or they may already have made a selection (e.g. choice of browser, screen resolution, use of screen reader) which is communicated to the site at the time of use.  For users with disabilities, the availability of appropriate and useable accessibility options may mean the difference between them being able to use a site, or looking elsewhere.

How this overlaps with privacy may not be immediately obvious.  Privacy refers to the amount of control that we have over our personal information, and how this is shared and used.  On the Internet, Privacy can be taken to mean that you are aware of the information that you are sharing, and this information is used in a way that you are comfortable with until it is destroyed.

Browser Information Leakage
So how can accessibility compromise privacy?  By knowing that a user is visually impaired, and combining that information with other information, for example that they are located in a certain area (from their IP address, or GPS or other location), you could compromise an individual’s privacy.  Research has already indicated that between 63% and 87% of Americans can be uniquely identified by birth date, gender and 5-digit zip code (see here and here for the research and here for some analysis by the Electronic Freedom Foundation).  If you’re not convinced – check out the Panopticlick “browser fingerprinter”, also from the EFF.  When I just tested my browser, its fingerprint was unique amongst nearly 800,000 configurations tested so far. 

Logon Information Leakage
Other accessibility options, such as reading text aloud, may be appropriate for an application being used at home, but may impact privacy if they are used in a location such as a library or a bank lobby, or may not even work if the appropriate hardware is not in place.  Developers must give thought to where a website may be used when developing privacy options, particularly when the website grants access to sensitive information.

How Privacy can impact Accessibility
Restrictions on sharing information about people’s health and health conditions may impact the ability to plan appropriately accessible services for them.  As a result, companies may not have the information that they need to know how to adapt their sites to their user base, reducing their ability to provide accessible information for all.

While none of these issues are insurmountable, the fast evolving fields of Accessibility and Privacy mean that practitioners must be conscious of these areas when designing new applications as in many places there is no standard for managing the overlap of these two fields.