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Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told us that the NSA tracks everything—who we email, our social networks, even what toothpaste we use—using a huge database of information it has collected. Snowden’s tale poses interesting questions about data security, and shows how tracking data can highlight important information about the way we live and work.

Like other disciplines, compliance programs have begun to embrace data analytics. The idea of tracking data and spatial mapping of data has been the subject of numerous articles about “big data,” including some in Corporate Counsel, that discuss the Moneyball approach to compliance.

This approach notes that tracking data is key to using data analytics in a compliance program and that objective data points can highlight emerging compliance risks. For instance, the number of third party intermediaries in a country or government official customers may highlight a company’s anticorruption risk profile.

Companies also can get useful information by tracking communication within a compliance program. Communication is often the lonely stepchild of compliance conferences, which tend to focus on other elements of robust compliance programs such as risk assessment, audits, investigations, or training—maybe because lawyers and outside consultants are more at ease talking about concepts traditionally in their wheelhouse. And communication is hard to get right. At a basic level, it involves passing on compliance messages to internal and external stakeholders, addressing employee compliance concerns, and program tracking.

Program tracking is where many companies miss the mark. Often companies are sent scrambling to rebuild their communication efforts years after a compliance failure, and the company has to try to retrace several years of compliance initiatives. This is a wasted effort. Before checking the communication box on the next compliance risk assessment, compliance professionals should evaluate how they are tracking their program and communicating compliance wins within the organization.

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