Let’s bring it back for a moment to one of the main reasons for the consideration of watermark usage. Photo-snapping at work. How can it happen, what makes it so dangerous for corporations, and why does it happen at all if it is so?
So how can photo-snapping happen? There are many ways. The easiest of which are just simple screenshotting or even the use of a smartphone camera, of which many of us have in this day and age. It is more surprising to see someone that doesn't own a smartphone than the opposite. It can even go further to more complex methods of photo-snapping like screen recording, or even streaming a screen share to other viewers, with the latter opening up the photo-snapping possibilities to the viewers themselves as well. A simple photo or video of sensitive data can be easily spread and will spread like wildfire through the use of instant messaging or email and the like.
As such, it is quite understandable that such a simple possibility with a dire consequence can be a detriment to a corporation’s data and in turn, their reputation, should it be publicized. Data breaches commonly reach the headlines of news and media, with user private information being leaked as one of the most common and damning issues for said corporations under the limelight. A corporation embroiled in such controversy would lead potential customers to doubt the capabilities of the corporation to protect their information and thus head elsewhere for the service they are looking for.
If a simple yet deceivingly harmless act of photo-snapping can in turn lead to extremely confidential data being leaked, why do employees do it anyway? The answer may not always be malicious in nature. Employees generally do not see the need or want to purposefully spread confidential data of the corporation to harm the place of their work, unless there are other factors causing a grudge against the corporation. So let’s assume a normal, happy workplace. Even in such an environment, it can still happen. This is mainly due to complacency; seeing the act of taking a photo to be generally harmless with little possibility of spreading in the first place. One might think that the person or group they are sharing said photos with wouldn’t cause it to spread any further, without considering the many ways it can. The recipient may share it with other people they feel wouldn’t cause it to spread any further, arising from the same complacency mentioned already. The network over which the media was sent through may not be secure and could be cached and taken by another party; a malicious actor. The service itself that was used to transmit data may not be secure either. The possibilities are many. Thus, should a leak of data happen, it is extremely hard to trace the long chain of events to the original cause of such a vulnerability, and even then it is difficult to trace the reason for such a spread, malicious or not. This makes accountability and punishment extremely perplexing, and a solution is required.
The simplest way of deterring such a spread is to nip the bud before it blooms, by using a watermarking service. This superimposition of employees’ identification over sensitive information would already and automatically insert accountability into the equation. Employees would be very much less likely to share confidential data with others if the image itself would already identify them. This instead may even foster a sense of protecting one's own confidential documents from the possible photo-snapping of others as the fault ultimately leads back to them. This also removes the need for physical supervision of employees be it at the workplace or at home. Therefore such a simple solution for such a simple yet problematic act should be adopted by corporations in the current day.
written by Yong Rui Tan Associate Engineer