Data Privacy and Security

Data privacy is broken and there's no fixing it

Another day, another million people’s details are sold online after the breaching of, a sort of wannabe smarter version of a dating site for, that most nebulous of categories, the ‘elite’ – Brash-ley Madison, if you like.

It was the former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy who said “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” That was in the last century, believe it or not, and it turns out he was right. And, unlike the case with Who Killed Cock Robin?, the perpetrator’s not difficult to pin down. It’s the internet, stupid.

The web opened up a world of possibilities… and a world of vulnerabilities too. Some optimists thought that if we threw enough smart people and defences at it we could fix online security, but we couldn’t. Pandora’s Box (actually a jar, to be pedantic) is open and all the evils of the world can’t be scooped back in. They’re scattered to the four winds and that includes the Dark Web.

The most depressing aspect of this is that we can’t even opt out of the move to being nakedly online. Once it seemed possible that a digital equivalent of the Slow Food movement might come along and some of us would sit out the internet, preferring to keep our own counsel. However, now that every institution uses cloud platforms and now that the web is the world’s trading floor, we can’t even have a say in the matter. Unless we live without banks, healthcare, social security and taxes we exist in the ether and like it or loathe it we can never leave it or lose it. Live in a barrel like Diogenes or live online: it’s a binary world.

And so we beat on, boats against the tide, waiting for the time to come when our credentials, our funds or personal peccadilloes become sport for criminals and voyeurs. Like the man said: you have zero privacy – get over it.


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Torquemada, not his real name, has been casting a jaundiced eye on the technology world since the Sinclair C5 was causing as much excitement as the driverless car today, a 64K RAM pack could turbocharge performance, and Alan Sugar was the equivalent of Elon Musk.

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