Lost Luggage


By Adam Turteltaub

There’s a fun site called Unclaimed Baggage filled with an amusing array of items all sourced from lost luggage. Fancy a new winter jacket? Maybe a signed picture of the magician David Copperfield?  How about a used iPad? You’ll find them all in great abundance.

While we all know that things get lost on planes, we tend to think about the personal things: the suitcase that goes on vacation with you but never comes back, the headphones jammed into the seat pocket and then forgotten as you rush to make a connecting flight.

What people are less likely to think about are the trade secrets and data that can get lost.

For all the investment made in data security, with VPNs, firewalls and other measures designed to foil intrusion, for all the hours spent training employees on the importance of avoiding phishing attacks, it all gets thrown out faster than a bottle of water at TSA. As soon as an employee opens up a laptop on a plane, security protocols go out the nearest emergency exit.

I have seen a salesperson work on her report about where she is with all her accounts and prospects. Flying to DC I have seen several PowerPoints with updates on various defense systems. My wife once found the minutes of the board meeting of a large foundation.

All it takes is the wrong person looking over a shoulder or putting a file in a seatback and then forgetting it for thousands, if not millions, of dollars of security infrastructure to be neutralized.

What’s odd for me is that when I worked in advertising the rule was no client work on planes. No one had to tell me that. We all knew that we had to protect our clients.

Yet, to my knowledge few organizations prohibit their employees from working on planes. Instead, there is language in codes of conduct about being cautious.

That was likely never enough. Now, with airlines experimenting with giving free in-flight WIFI, the risks are likely to grow exponentially.

Of course, few things would make compliance and privacy teams less popular than prohibiting all work on planes. Employees and managers would complain about the lost productivity. They would rightly point out that considerable hours would be wasted.

When they do, it may be best to remind them sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. Or this is an ideal time to read trade publications and other non-proprietary sources. And, if they insist on being productive, provide them a list of some compliance-related TV shows and movies to watch while flying.

Here are a few. Feel free to contribute others:

  • The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • The Big Short
  • The Big Conn
  • The Informant!
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Bombshell
  • Syriana
  • 42 (The integration of baseball can also be seen as a great story of business ethics and the difficulties in trying to do the right thing)
  • The Mechanism

And if your business people need an iPad to watch those movies on, just send them to Unclaimed Baggage. I’m sure they’ll find a good deal and a reminder of why you need to be careful on planes.