Could Attention Data Become a Record?

December 5, 2007 at 10:56 am | Posted in Attention Management | 3 Comments

I was talking to Andre Bonvanie of Newsgator who spoke at our conference in Barcelona and he pointed me to a blog entry from Nick Bradbury: New Attention Report Coming in FeedDemon 2.6.

This got me thinking about some of the implications of having attention data around.  Here’s an interesting thought experiment: what if information like this was commonly kept and a lawsuit occurred?  Would attention have to be treated as a record and subject to records management policies regarding classification, storage, access, and archiving?  Could it be discovered in a legal action?  Think about how would the standard “I didn’t know” executive defense of Berney Ebbers (WorldCom) or Richard Scrushy (HealthSouth) stand up if attention data was available!

Here’s a fantasy courtroom transcript to show how this could play out:

Prosecutor to CEO: Were you aware of the options repricing, loan forgiveness, impending fall of stock prices, and other shady dealings that were going on?

CEO: No.  I’m very busy and a lot of things pass my desk … blah blah blah … I trust my executives to do their jobs and, in this case, so-and-so violated that trust … yada yada yada … I’m not the numbers guy – I leave the financials up to my CFO …

Prosecutor: (turns on video projector hooked up to laptop and walks through a series of reports) Then why does this inbox analytics report from your PC show that you spent 8 minutes on average reading emails with the words “loan forgiveness”? 

CEO: Ummm …

Prosecutor: Why does your browsing history show you looked at two dozen websites regarding options law? 

CEO: Well, I must have clicked on the wrong …

Prosecutor: Then why does your search history show you did multiple searches on “options repricing” the day before the repricing occurred? 

CEO: I’m sure that can be explained …

Prosecutor: And why does your OPML file show you subscribed to three sets of financial reports if you claim to not care?  Why are the unread markers on those reports cleared if you didn’t click on them? And why does this social map show that you had very tight connections and frequently exchanged messages with the foreign affiliates you claim to not know about?  Why do these content analytics show you read four internal white papers about the declining revenues and the implications?  Why does your APML file show you have had a sky-high 0.91 level of interest in “stock manipulation”?

CEO: (sweating, trembling, in angry voice reminiscent of a Perry Mason breakdown) All right, I did it!  Don’t ya see – I had to do it … the pressure!  (begins sobbing. baliff handcuffs CEO and takes him away)

This is a fantasy of course, but as more technologies allow one to track attention data such as social relationships, email analytics, content analytics, web browsing history it’s only a matter of time before some of this information winds up in a courtroom.  Among a lack of written evidence that an executive knew what was going on, how do you know they were aware of a situation?  You can’t read their mind, but you can mind what they read.  That’s a scary proposition for any executive under fire that is trying to blame their underlings as rogue operators.



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  1. I note the statement – This is a fantasy of course.

    The scenario as detailed does not sound like fiction to me.

    Data is a record. Emails are records. Web searching is a record. Websites are records.

    How do you think the good guys catch Paedophiles’? They do it by watching their web activities online.

    Lets get into the 2100 century.

    Anything anywhere that is retrievable & or accessible is potential EVIDENCE with the proviso that it does not break a law in finding the data or is exempted by law as evidence.

    Let the RECORD do its work & be used to catch the wrongdoers.

    My 2 cent s worth.

    Laurie Varendorff ARMA

  2. This is ridiculous. All of that data can be faked. It would never be valid in a court of law.

    Not long from now, photos and videos won’t be valid either. Just like audio no longer is.

    The age of media manipulation changes everything.

  3. […] was a timely discussion for me since just yesterday I wrote a posting on Could Attention Data Become a Record? that introduced a fantasy scenario where a corporate executive insisting on innocence about […]

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