Space Ramblings

Things That Sound Smart but Aren’t

The key is not to pour money into protecting information, but to develop a global approach to neutralizing its value. By creating secrets, we have created value, which is pursued by opportunists. ”

—John M. Brock

This was a pull quote at the Wall Street Journal site and it sounds good and smart-like, but what does it really mean? Some secrets only have value because they are secret, but in most cases the information itself has innate value, which is why it’s being kept secret. You could have no more secrets, but then you lose out on the value. Using the possibility that a company’s information will be compromised as the reason to give up trying to keep certain information secret, such as their course of technological development or what they’re working on next, is ridiculous, because it’s arguing that the possibility that strategic information will be compromised means that it’s better not to hold information secure for strategic advantage.

To move this over to a military metaphor, imagine that the armies on both sides decided that since spies might compromise their movements, it’s better to just meet at a prearranged location with all strategies out in the open. Obviously this doesn’t hold up too well. Information has strategic value. Keeping it in the open doesn’t just devalue it, but takes those strategic options off the table. It’s common sense, but that common sense can be clouded when business too impressed by the kind of TEDspeak you see in the quotes begin taking it seriously. Business trends get started sometimes for good reasons and sometimes because clueless business executives are too impressionable when they hear what sound like big ideas expressed in a specialized language that sounds businesslike.

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