Privacy Ref Blog

Mobile phones, airplanes, and business privacy

The thought of air travel with someone nearby holding a conversation on a mobile phone is not pleasant (to say the least). I began to think about those people I typically see today holding last minute conversations, the ones just before the airplane doors close, and wondered about the impact on business’s privacy above 10,000 feet.

Who are the last to stop taking?

You get in the queue, you find your seat, and you settle into your seat. The cabin doors close and the request to turn off mobile communication devices is made by the flight attendant. You hear most conversations wrapping up, but there is always that one business person who needs a few more seconds to close a deal, finish a contract, or give instructions. They just keep on talking. Soon they may be able to just call back in a few minutes.

It happens to all of us. We get so wrapped up in our conversation that we forget about our surroundings. We just focus on the conversation as if it is occurring face-to-face in a secure location while not really thinking about what might be revealed.

Is business privacy being lost?

Let’s face it, mobile etiquette does not always include a speaker lowering their voice. It is also sometimes difficult for someone sitting right next to you from overhearing your conversation.  So with the potential to hold a conversation above 10,000 feet someone can find themselves in close quarters, not knowing who is sitting next to them, and potentially sharing confidential business information.

This isn’t only true for conversations; laptop use can cause the same problem.

Business privacy and the unprotected screen

I was the technical support person on a sales team early in my career when were asked to give a presentation that required the team to fly to a mid-west city.  When we arrived at our destination airport our sales lead was very excited. He told us dinner out was cancelled, but we’d be getting room service because we had a lot of work to do.

It turns out the sales lead was sitting next to someone from our competition who was working on their presentation to the prospect. He now had a look at their strategy and pricing.

We spent the evening rewriting our presentation and repricing our offering. Then, during the presentation, we were able to raise some points that would cast doubt on the competitor’s approach.

We won the deal.

Loose lips (and fingers) might sink ships

During World War II the War Advertising Council warned servicemen and civilians to protect against unguarded talk that might lead to exposing sensitive information to the enemy. Maybe it is time to share a similar message within our organizations.

  • author's avatar

    By: Bob Siegel

    Bob Siegel, the founder and President of Privacy Ref, Inc., has extensive professional experience in the development and improvement of privacy policies and procedures, the definition of performance metrics to evaluate privacy maturity, and the evaluation of compliance. He utilizes a combination of alignment, adaptability, and accountability strategies to guide organizations in achieving their privacy goals.

    He is a Fellow of Information Privacy (FIP) and a Certified Information Privacy Professional, awarded from the International Association of Privacy Professionals, with concentrations in U.S. private-sector law (CIPP/US), US public sector law (CIPP/G), European law (CIPP/E), and Canadian law (CIPP/C). He is also a Certified Information Privacy Manager (CIPM) and Privacy Technologist (CIPT).

    Siegel is a member of the IAPP faculty, has served on the Certification Advisory Board for the CIPM program the Publications Advisory Board.

    Siegel also writes the blog “Operational Privacy” on

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  • author's avatar

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Privacy Ref provides consulting and assessment services to build and improve organizational privacy programs. For more information call Privacy Ref at (888) 470-1528 or email us at

Posted on November 24, 2013 by Bob Siegel
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