Beverly Magda, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean of the Technology Management master’s program at Georgetown University. She has nearly 20 years of experience in information technology—more than half in education and not-for-profit organizations. Previously, she lead IT initiatives at the Humane Society of the United States and Johns Hopkins University. She also served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins University and Hood College. Her research on mitigation of the effects of technological change leads her to presentations across the country and consultations at organizations undergoing technological change.
She holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Management & Systems Engineering from The George Washington University, as well as a Master of Science in Telecommunications Management and Bachelor of Science in Computer & Information Science.
CiviliNation: While earning your Ph.D. in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, your research focus was on the effects of technological change on individuals. What interested you about that?
Beverly Magda: I’ve always been fascinated by why technology change initiatives fail. It’s amazing to me how many millions of dollars are spent on technology projects that are never fully adopted or utilized at all. When conducting my research, I learned that the top reasons why technology implementations fail have nothing to do with the technology itself, but more about the people and processes. This led me to conduct research in emergency departments at a historical time when they were moving from paper-based patient medical records to electronic medical records. I studied the impact of the change on the staff, and developed techniques to mitigate the effect of the technology change in order to have successful adoption of the new technology.
CiviliNation: You’re the Associate Dean of the Master of Professional Studies in Technology Management at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. One of the courses within the program is “Ethics in Technology Management.” Why are ethics important in the technology field?
Beverly Magda: As technology leaders, we have access to a lot of information. Organizations trust their most sensitive data to IT professionals, and it’s critical that these individuals understand the importance of ethical use with regard to the the data and information they have access to. I recall a survey by Robert Half Technology completed a few years ago where participants were asked to choose which professions should be the most ethical. The survey revealed that doctors and IT professionals tied for first place over lawyers, accountants, HR professionals, and investment bankers. That says a lot to me about the need for ethical leadership in IT.
CiviliNation: During your career, you’ve worked in both the private and non-profit sectors. Do you believe that the risk to personal privacy online has become greater in the past decade and if so, what are the reasons?
Beverly Magda: Yes, with the ease of use and ubiquitousness of various technologies, mobile devices, and social media. we are constantly “on.” There is also the allure of purposely broadcasting personal information online. Although social networking has been around for years, it is actually fairly new, and there aren’t a whole lot of federal or state laws and regulations addressing all of the personal privacy concerns online.
CiviliNation: What is your response to people who claim that online reputational and privacy attacks against adults are rare and not something that most people need to worry about?
Beverly Magda: I think it’s something we have to worry about. One can go to any news or entertainment website or blog and read the comments on an article or post to see that adults are attacking one another simply because they don’t agree with another’s opinion. You also hear of cases where adults’ stolen online profiles have been used to create a new and fake profile with the sole purpose of damaging the individuals’ reputation. As adults we have to learn that we’re all different and our backgrounds, our heritage, our education, and our upbringing make us who we are – and it’s ok to agree to disagree without personally attacking each another.
CiviliNation: Do you believe that social networking and other websites have any social or ethical responsibilities to help stem privacy violations and online attacks?
Beverly Magda: Absolutely. I believe that social networking and web sites have that responsibility and, as part of helping address the problem, should post a code of ethics that they expect users to abide by. Again, we may not agree with everyone else’s opinion, but individuals should be held responsible for the way they conduct themselves online, especially if it causes privacy violations and attacks.
CiviliNation: Why do you think there is a frequent lack of understanding by law enforcement and the legal system about the depth and breadth of the problem of online attacks and cyberbullying against adults?
Beverly Magda: Law enforcement is dealing with budget cuts and lack of staffing to handle such situations. Additionally, I believe that part of the reason our federal government hasn’t been able to tackle this issue is because it is all fairly new and laws to appropriately address this issue don’t yet exist, which in turn makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.
CiviliNation: What three recommendations would you give people to help protect themselves online?
Beverly Magda: First, think before you post. Ask yourself whether you really want that information out there for all to see. Think twice about posting your travel plans, photos of your children, birthday information, etc.
Second, check your privacy settings on all of your social networking sites, on-line banking, e-mail accounts and so on regularly. Often changes are made to privacy policies without us knowing about them, so doing a routine check is important.
Third, Google yourself and set up a Google Alert for all variations of your name. You want to know immediately what is being posted about you on the Internet.