Who Owns Your Information?

Silly question, no? Users of Microsoft Office 2003 documents protected by Active Directory Rights Management Service (AD RMS) or Rights Management Services (RMS) found out that it wasn’t themselves. Starting on December 11, 2009, customers could not open nor save documents protected with these systems. You see, the expiry date for the license information within the definition file used by Office 2003 was set to December 10, 2009. Microsoft delivered a hotfix on December 11, but until it is installed, users will see this message: “Unexpected error occurred. Please try again later or contact your system administrator.” The patch only works with Office 2003SP3, so if you have macros or applications which don’t work with SP3, you’re out of luck.

Owners of music purchased from WalMart lost access to it when protected songs from its online store could not longer be played after they shut down their  digital rights management (DRM) servers in February 2008. Both Microsoft and Yahoo were forced to alter their own plans to discontinue support for their own DRM servers, with Microsoft pledging to continue support through 2011, and Yahoo offering to refund the song purchases. So you have personal or business information which relies on DRM? What does your contract say about termination of the service and access to your information?

Chase customers who use Quicken or Microsoft Money bill pay also found out that who really owns their data. In the middle of November, Chase upgraded their IT systems and broke the ability for users to pay their bills from their desktops. Chase is aware that this problem has been occurring for well over two weeks, but instead of notifying users of this by phone or e-mail (or even snail mail), they have been waiting for customers to call in, navigate the phone tree, and wait on hold to talk to an agent. As of this writing there is no estimate for when the problem will be solved.

This actually might not be a big deal since, according to Mint founder and CEO Aaron Patzer, “Over the next 6 to 9 months, we will end-of-life Quicken Online and their customers’ data will be migrated over to Mint.” I guess that’s what happens when companies merge.

Oh yeah, Microsoft Money is discontinued as of January 2011 too. After that point, people can continue to use the product, but they will no longer be able to get automated data feeds from their banks, credit card companies and other financial service providers. Guess you better figure out how to transfer your information to a new application before then.

What happens if you want to change providers, or worse, what if your service or application provider goes bust? How do you access your information or get it out of its grasp so that you can move it somewhere else? Let’s say that for whatever reason you want to move from Salesforce.com to another provider or to an internal system.

In summary, do you have an exit strategy for whatever application or service you are using to hold your information? If not, then developing one should be high on your new year’s resolution list.

Ron LaPedis, MBCP, MBCI, CISSP-ISSAP, ISSMP
Founder and Principal
Seacliff Partners International, LLC

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