06/11/2010 03:42 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Strange Relationship Between Oil and Data

In surveying the current events that are captivating our national attention, two things distinctly stand out as working to define this moment: oil and data. The two resources, both vital in today's economy, are impacting our environments, both physical and virtual, and lifestyles. Oil and data are both precious resources, powerful when refined and used for the appropriate purposes, and toxic when misused and mishandled.

We stand at a crossroads on how we are to appropriately tap into and manage both resources. With oil, the critical issue has become the safety of offshore drilling and the economic and environmental impacts of failing to contain a spill, with BP's recent disaster standing as a catastrophic reminder. With data, ownership, privacy and accountability of data managers continues to dominate our digital lives, with AT&T's current iPad data breach exemplar of such problems.

We are faced with corporate social irresponsibility in both situations that is very similar: making mistakes, trying to hide them and doing a horrible job of cleaning them up and compensating those affected. Although the two seem like unlikely bedfellows, corporate America's current handling of oil and data are representative of the broader corporate disregard we as consumers face.

With both, we are confronted with uncertain futures. Sustainability looms in the debate surrounding both resources; Accessibility a conversation held concurrently. Our demand for both resources continues to grow; our capacity to provide them is more certain with one than the other. At one point in time, it was thought that supplies of oil were never-ending; with data, the supply is endless, the management capabilities not so plentiful. With both, the management of these resources is toyed with, allowing for harm to fall on the unwitting consumer and unintended parties when disaster strikes.

As far removed as these two resources may seem from one another, how we handle them both will define a generation and our collective future.