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On November 7th 2007 Information Evolution was formed. Ten years later, we have 300 employees in our three offices and we service dozens of customers worldwide. Our mission remains as it was then: to be a trusted data management partner for the firms building and maintaining the world’s most innovative online information services.

In some ways it remains as hard to explain what we do as it was in our early days, but here are a few examples of the things our work enabled in our first decade and the types of tools we used to handle the work:

  • Giving account-based-marketers the ability to understand the precise professional priorities of their most important customers and prospects. (news monitoring, primary research, content creation, data analysis)
  • Helping musicians get compensated when their work is used by others without their permission. (crowdsourcing, open source tools, complex process design)
  • Allowing real estate professionals, engineers, and bankers to find every person or company that ever existed on a given piece of property. (OCR conversion, custom software, complex process design)
  • Mapping geographic areas to enable the serving of geo-targeted mobile advertising. (open source GIS tools, crowdsourcing)
  • Training chatbots to allow accurate 24/7/365 customer service for telecom customers. (crowdsourcing, custom software)
  • Gathering data from images in order to add value to database records and allow complex search and retrieval. (data analysis, crowdsourcing)
  • Harvesting government data and overlaying it on proprietary data to make b-to-b databases richer and more timely. (data extraction, process design)

While these diverse projects show the ‘magical’ promise of what information services can achieve, most of our day-to-day work revolves around the admittedly un-sexy heavy lifting involved in extracting, normalizing, confirming, and appending database records. Automated processes handle more and more of this work, but without the experienced data analysts, telephone researchers, interface designers, and process managers to manage our customers’ increasingly complex data supply chains, the work simply could not be done.

Other reasons why our company continues to grow are based on how we have decided to run our company.

  • Commitment to our Customers’ Success: The company’s founding members remain very actively involved in all of our projects and we stand by our (reasonable) prices, (aggressive) delivery schedules, and (outstanding) data accuracy.
  • Integrity: Not every service company has been built from the ground up by people with strong professional reputations and life-long commitments to customer success. IEI has.
  • Innovation: We support innovation in the information service sector by donating to the University of Texas’s School of Information to support their innovative programs and brilliant students and we are aggressive early adopters of transformative technologies.

The technology and tools we use to make our customers’ commercial databases as valuable to their end users as they are may change but these principles will not.

So, what does the future hold for IEI? We’re not 100% sure, but we do know that those self-driving cars won’t just drive themselves and the algorithms that will make our personal and business lives better are based on underlying data that needs to be very, very accurate. However we do it, we will continue to define and refine industry best practices to make those mission-critical goals achievable and affordable.

Here’s to another ten years of helping our customers make the future a better place!

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posted by Shyamali Ghosh on November 5, 2017

This is blog post was inspired by posts by Mitchell Davis of The Privacy Rights Council.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union (EU) law coming into effect on May 25th 2018. It’s intended to protect the data privacy of EU residents, including the export of personal data outside the EU. Because it extends to a resident’s professional life, it will affect firms that sell business contact information of European firms and their employees.

Enforcement will start country-by-country in Europe (Germany being aggressive, UK being lax) with regulators first looking at firms that completely ignore the regulation. Being proactive about GDPR is, therefore, key because no one knows exactly how this will play out. Those who are trying their best to comply will likely be spared the EU’s initial regulatory wrath.

So, for purveyors of directory and mailing list data I suggest the following preemptive approach to the “notice requirements” on the retention time for contact information. Specifically, data content producers can take the “Best if Used By Date” approach mandated by food regulators. In other words, contact data for organizations and business executives that “goes bad” an average of every six months or so due to job title changes, job moves, corporate relocations, corporate restructuring, etc. could be appended with a “production date” from which an “expiration date” could then be assigned.

The idea of adding such provenance metadata to commercial databases:

  1. would show a primary source where a user could see if the data were still accurate;
  2. is relatively easy to comply;
  3. would spur providers to update their data more frequently; and,
  4. would pave the way for the eventual forensic analysis of algorithms within information systems that depend on the underlying data. (The algorithmic implications are not so great for contact data but are substantial for providers of firmographic data on company size, facility size, etc. For instance, if a country regulator sends out a legal notice to the water quality officers at all water treatment plants larger than X then the source of the value “X” is quite important.)

Data anonymization (called “pseudonymization” by the EU) is another fascinating area covered by the GDPR. It’s generally agreed that data in its aggregate or otherwise anonymized form (i.e., not directly related to a specific person or firm) is incredibly valuable to analysts and regulators, as well as being very important data worthy of protection. Ideally, an organization would own and store its own data locally and would only release selected (encrypted) data points to authorized requesters who were pre-approved for its use in aggregated or anonymous applications. It is assumed that all public institutions would be ‘open’ to all requests by default so European government organizations themselves could actually spearhead this long-term effort.

An effective anonymized data-sharing framework also sidesteps the issue of inadvertent data exposure and is consistent with the related EU principle of ‘data portability’—the ability to take one’s data and give it to service providers with a set of permissions related to its use and protection. Portability would allow individuals to easily sign on to new personal services and organizations could quickly submit their own data to auditors, insurers, etc. without any wasted internal manpower expenses.

In conclusion, I’m usually very apprehensive about the EU’s desires to regulate things without fully understanding them, but I see some reasons for hope in the principles espoused by the EU in this case. If the owners of information services take the proactive first steps toward transparency on data provenance (acknowledging, via text footnotes, that this is being done in order to comply with GDPR regs) I am cautiously optimistic that Europe’s regulators will initially err on the side of caution and will then, over time, side with Europe’s active open data communities to allow this effort to move forward in a logical, non-onerous way that will benefit both the owners and the users of data.

For more info:

Wikipedia’s article on General Data Protection Regulation

The Privacy Rights Council

EDRi’s e-Privacy Directive FAQ

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posted by Shyamali Ghosh on October 10, 2017