Data Privacy and Security

Rant: Whatever happened to security?

Here in the UK the new middle-class parlour game is comparing security exposure after the trifecta of big security breach stories. Shop with Marks & Spencer, have broadband with Talk Talk and use British Gas utilities? Congratulations (or rather commiserations) you’ve got a full house of hassles.

The security technology industry was one of the winners on the back of the web’s soar-away success. Very quickly, security rose from ranking in the relegation places of CIO priorities to approaching the top of the pile. This Lazarus-like progress made billions for the big security firms and the thousands that followed to mean every new tear and hole in the world’s computing and communications fabric.

But has the result been that we all feel confident in the trusted infrastructure surrounding us? Nope. Do we feel confident at least that the very bad people won’t use technology to break down our national safekeeping? Certainly not.

Instead we live in a New Age of Anxiety. WH Auden’s 1947 poem, The Age of Anxiety, dealt with the challenges of retaining meaning, sensitivity and culture in an industrialising post-war world. Today we haven’t got time for such fripperies as we’re too busy wondering who is doing what with our bank details, emails and pictures.

How did we get into this mess? A gung-ho attitude shared by consumers and sellers, each greedy to pocket the savings of internet automation, I suppose. Whatever, we live in a world where we have little confidence that our most precious information is safe from prying eyes and we shall never get that confidence back.

The big technology companies don’t want to admit it but there is a fear that we consumers might end up rewinding to a pre-web time where we no longer provide digital information that flows across networks. Proposed solutions like blanket encryption remain layered under knotty questions of ethics and national security.

Neither did the checks and balances of reputation management have much effect. It was supposed that fear of damage to their brands would mean companies taking infinite care in stewardship of our data. Today, everybody has had an exposure and the damage to reputation is mild.

So here we are, constantly rained on by stories of compromises that may or may not have catastrophic effects on our lives. 


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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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