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Privacy or Discovery?

July 30, 2012

The title of this blog sounds like a new party game or maybe a reality show on cable TV.  However, privacy and discovery are two sides of the same coin which, in the era of unified communications (UC) and social networking, is a real issue that companies need to carefully consider.

Privacy, clearly, is about controlling access to our various ‘addresses’ (e.g. phone numbers, email, IM, etc.) so that we can work uninterrupted.  Discovery is the ability for you to find the task-appropriate address of the right person, either in your organization or in partner organizations.

Online directories could have replaced the door-stopping telephone book and yellow pages of previous decades, because they are cheaper, easier to search and are often user-maintained.  However the commensurate increase in the threat to privacy from a global directory means that they are usually shunned by companies and private individuals alike.  The notable successes in the online directory space are the search and review directories such as Yelp, Google/Bing/Yahoo Local, Craigs/Angies List, etc.  These allow businesses that actively pursue discovery to gain preferential listing via attributes like geographic proximity as well as customer ratings (plus, of course, willingness to pay the directory owner).

Another form of online directory, the social network, facilitates discovery of like-minded people.  In particular, LinkedIn provides a way to build an online version of your professional network and maintain contact with people as they move from job to job.  Of course, when a person changes job, you lose contact with the functional role that person provided in their previous position.  However, hopefully, they will provide an introduction to their replacement.

Corporate telephone directories were never made public for obvious reasons.  However, this did not impact business communication because this was facilitated via social consent protocols such as the exchange of business cards and personal referrals.  Your list of personal contacts is now probably co-located with your email client, such as Outlook.  However unified communications (UC) users are increasingly using their UC client for the same purpose since it also provides presence indications.  Sadly, the lack of inter-vendor interoperability artificially creates communications barriers between users of different technologies.

As a Federation Cloud service, NextPlane facilitates inter-company communications among UC users with prior relationships while maintaining privacy.  Our policy enforcement features provide control over which types of traffic (IM, presence, voice, video, and file transfer) are allowed or denied across the federated domains and to the individual users within their domains.  Our use of state of the art technology such as encryption and certificate-based authentication ensures that (unlike our PSTN predecessors):

  • Our user directory is only accessible by authorized users.
  • The person ‘calling’ is who they say they are.
  • Neither the addresses of the parties nor the contents of the communication can be intercepted by 3rd parties.

Our ability to bridge the main UC vendor systems that remain non-interoperable is providing real value in facilitating inter-company UC while maintaining privacy and managing discovery.  With over 125,000 unique users using NextPlane at a rate of around 10 million messages a day, we haven’t quite reached the volume of the PSTN incumbents, but they are heading South, while we are heading North!

  1. Yes we do… we have filed a pattent on this unique method of security.

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  1. Federation Security: Transitive Trust « Unified Communication Federation Blog

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