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Why Katie left Tom, and who gets the data?

Like many people in the high tech world, I don’t usually pay attention to the latest entertainment gossip. But while watching the news recently at a hotel, I found myself barraged with information about Katie Holmes deciding to leave Tom Cruise. There was so much earnest reporting of vague speculation that the sheer magnitude made me wonder what I had missed and what were the circumstances.

So why did Katie decide to leave Tom? Well, there are plenty of talking heads leading to uninformed conclusions. That mirrors the storage industry at times. In this case, the perceptions about what possibly could have happened were presented with such conviction that they must be true. The consensus conclusion was that religious differences were at the heart of this. There is no arguing with religion – just try and enter a discussion about Windows and Mac.

No matter how much “news” I hear, I know I can’t really believe what is being said, no matter how fervently. I do know that only a few people understand for sure what is happening, and the public will be told a variation of the truth. And, I do know I don’t really care. It is their personal problem and I don’t see that as a spectator sport. It’s not quite the same as watching “the big one” 27-car pile-up at Talladega in a NASCAR race.

Still, I can’t help thinking of the implications in the area of the digital information they have created and protected. Who gets the data? What information would they want individually that is in electronic form?

• Tax records?
• Business records?
• Wedding pictures? (I realize there needs to be multiple independent file system structures for these. This may be where we get into multi-tenancy isolation issues.)
• Pictures of children?
• I’m sure there are other types of important digital file as well that amassed during the marriage.

If they go to court — and it looks now like they won’t — some information could be part of a court order for discover. Other information is personal and while some of the information may be priceless to one person, it may not be quite so valuable to the other. But it is information that exists in digital form somewhere and has to be split up in some way. Where is the information and who parcels it out accordingly?

Were they practicing safe data protection? It is doubtful they were backing up to a cloud location because of security and privacy concerns for celebrities. Do they simply make a copy of all files and hand them over? Or, do they hide some data – delete files, digitally overwrite disks, send backup copies to the shredder? Emotion and lack of clear judgment (beyond normal operational failures that most business experience) may cause some data to be deleted or “lost.”

All these concerns have similarities to business issues. Many of them can be mapped to business circumstances. Getting access to the information could be made frustratingly difficult. In the words of the talking heads, “this could get ugly.”

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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