Click here to monitor SSC
SQLServerCentral is supported by Red Gate Software Ltd.
 
Log in  ::  Register  ::  Not logged in
 
 
 

Guest Editorial: Information is Power

By Phil Factor,

I was discussing, with a friend, Albert Einstein's views on Atomic Warfare, and his guilt about his role in its development, as expressed in his private letters. He surprised me somewhat by asking me if anyone responsible for the development of relational databases felt any guilt or remorse about the opportunities for abuse of the power that these databases afford. It seemed a bit harsh, I thought, to compare Information Technology with weapons of mass destruction, but then maybe he has a point…

Governments, especially totalitarian governments, know that knowledge is power. A classic, well-documented example is the Stasi, modelled on the Soviet MGB, which was probably the most effective and repressive intelligence system ever devised. With modern data searching techniques, the power this knowledge yields is now greater than ever.

Databases are a focus for the steady erosion of civil liberties. In the UK, the current government have extended their powers to access personal information on several occasions. The Coroners and Justice Bill, for example, empowers the government to obtain and share information with local councils, the DVLA, benefits offices and HM Revenue and Customs. Whilst one can argue that those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear, the reality isn't that simple. Governments aren't always as benign as they seem, and the individual has much to fear from one that knows a great deal about you and has lost its moral compass. What if it is a hostile government or agency that has your records? Incorrect information can, and does, get into a database through both carelessness and malice. The potential for abuse for anyone who has your medical records is frightening.

Those of us who are responsible for preventing abuse of the data in our databases can refine our security as far as possible, but we are helpless in the face of a growing willingness of users, with legitimate access to information, to give it out in response to a bribe. The theft of government information by criminal organisations has reached epidemic proportions.

Should we, as the people who can see most clearly the real power, and potential failings, of relational databases be working more closely with civil liberties organisations to assist them in understanding the risks? Should we worry, or isn't it our problem?

 

Phil Factor.

Total article views: 116 | Views in the last 30 days: 1
 
Related Articles
SCRIPT

Find information about all databases

ALL database information

FORUM

Information about reports ran

Information about reports ran

ARTICLE

Government IT

A perspective from Richard Collins on the creation of a government IT profession in the UK.

FORUM

How to be informed about a database creation in SQL 2000

informe the DBA about a database creation in SQL 2000

BLOG

Carol McGury Speaks Out on Not-For-Profit Governance

I’d asked my friend and a form ED of PASS to add her thoughts about the governance process for not-f...

Tags
editorial    
sqlservercentral    
 
Contribute

Join the most active online SQL Server Community

SQL knowledge, delivered daily, free:

Email address:  

You make SSC a better place

As a member of SQLServerCentral, you get free access to loads of fresh content: thousands of articles and SQL scripts, a library of free eBooks, a weekly database news roundup, a great Q & A platform… And it’s our huge, buzzing community of SQL Server Professionals that makes it such a success.

Join us!

Steve Jones
Editor, SQLServerCentral.com

Already a member? Jump in:

Email address:   Password:   Remember me: Forgotten your password?
Steve Jones