As the editor of a technology publication, I’ve always had a clinical interest in privacy: what caused the latest data breach, and which new technology solutions best secure customer data. Now that I am responsible for a human other than myself, I’m sensitive to how little control we have over the information that becomes public. Thanks to social media, well-meaning friends and family members can share photos and personal information without parental consent. One hashtag later and it’s gone forever. I’m still figuring out how I feel about that, and it’s not overwhelmingly great.
In this month’s cover story, we interviewed the EVP and CIO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Martha Poulter. In it, Poulter talks about a variety of the customer-centric initiatives taking place at Starwood. Given my increased sensitivity to privacy, her comments on that topic leapt off the page at me. “It’s not like you had to be given a personal bill of rights that says, ‘don’t leave your wallet on your car’s dashboard in Times Square,’ but somewhere along the way you’ve learned not to do that. You’ve learned to lock your doors at night. We need to help people understand that their digital assets need to be private.” Starwood is focusing on protecting personally identifiable information, she says, and will be educating both staff and guests accordingly.
The vulnerability of digital assets isn’t overt like the unattended wallet or unlocked door. Meanwhile, social media culture has relaxed our standards for sharing personal information. I believe Poulter is correct. Hotels, as a home away from home, are in a unique position to both protect digital assets, and build awareness about how and where they become vulnerable. Conceal your room number, lock your door, and hang that tag on your digital assets that says, “privacy please.”