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Microsoft To Address Power BI Web Preview Security Concerns

Microsoft this week released the preview of a new feature for its Power BI data visualization tool that lets users publish dashboards to the Web. However,  its initial lack of IT controls quickly raised security concerns by IT pros, which the company is promising to fix.

The new Power BI "publish to Web" preview lets users publish their data visualizations to Web sites or blogs but it currently lacks the ability for IT administrators to disable it, which could allow users to unwittingly or intentionally publish data not intended to leave their organizations.

A number of critics used the comments section of the announcement by Microsoft group product manager Faisal Mohamood to lament the inability to disable the feature. "Please provide admin security for this Preview immediately," wrote Craig Piley, in the comments section of Mohamood's post -- a request noted by several, who otherwise lauded the capability of the new feature. "I understand the benefit of this ambitious functionality, yet any Power BI user now has the ability to share confidential data outside the organization by simply bypassing a warning message. This presents immense risk for companies, especially those in healthcare."

Responding to the concern yesterday, Mohamood promised the ability to disable the feature will arrive next week. "We released the publish to Web capability in preview, and are working on a variety of additional updates including the ability for admins to enable/disable," he wrote. "The ability to enable/disable publish to Web will arrive next week, worldwide."

Despite that missing feature, the ability to publish data visualizations to the Web from Power BI is likely to be a popular one. "As the amount of data generated around us continues to accelerate at a blistering pace, there is a tremendous desire and need for the ability to present data in visually engaging ways," Mohamood stated. "This has influenced the way we tell stories and share data insights online. The best stories are interactive, include rich data and are visual and interactive. A significant number of bloggers, journalists, newspaper columnists and authors are starting to share data stories with their audience for an immersive experience."

Among some of the benefits, he said, users can:

  • You can connect to hundreds of sources -- files, databases, applications and public data sources are all easy to connect to and use in your data stories.
  • Your reports can auto-refresh and stay up to date.
  • You can visualize the data with utmost flexibility, using custom visuals.
  • You have ownership and manageability of the content you publish; administrators will have the control over this capability as well.

Mohamood pointed to a number of organizations that have already started using the new feature including The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), the Grameen Foundation,  Water1st International, J.J. Food Service, SOLOMO Technology, Inc., The Civic Innovation Project and Microsoft's Bing Predicts team, which among other things used Power BI to analyze the final debate among Republican presidential candidates in Iowa.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/05/2016 at 5:14 PM


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