Guest Editorial: Information is Power

  • mhaskins

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1145

    I agree that knowledge is power. But having knowledge is not the same as abusing knowledge. The problem is not with having a database full of information. It is the use of that information that is the issue. Knowing that a person is 1/16th Jew, and deciding that that person no longer needs to live, are 2 completely different things.

    How can I know now what will become of the data in my database 10 years from now, or even after I am dead? Who will abuse that information? I can only put my trust in humanity.

    Mia

    I have come to the conclusion that the top man has one principle responsibility: to provide an atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work.
    -- David M. Ogilvy

  • GSquared

    SSC Guru

    Points: 260824

    I can easily imagine the inventor of the filing cabinet having similar qualms about "ease of data abuse" and "ease of data corruption".

    I can also imagine the inventor of writing lamenting how easy he had made it for people to get their hands on sensitive information that had, till then, only been illegally accessible through telepathy or torture. Oh the agony he must go through every time a typo, or a doctor's illegible handwriting, causes a mis-prescription!

    As a Dilbert comic put it one time: "Knowledge is power. Power corrupts. Stop reading."

    - Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
    Property of The Thread

    "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon

  • GSquared

    SSC Guru

    Points: 260824

    On the subject of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear", there's another aspect to it: Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to know certain things about certain people. I read about someone who borrowed her dad's cellphone, only to discover pictures of mom and dad... well ... can't go into that here. How'd you like to be the government employee who has to listen to recorded cell phone conversations? You'd get that kind of stuff to a point where it would go past the titilating into the boring and then into the realm of, "Please, no more! I just can't take it! Octogenarians shouldn't be talking about that kind of thing!"

    - Gus "GSquared", RSVP, OODA, MAP, NMVP, FAQ, SAT, SQL, DNA, RNA, UOI, IOU, AM, PM, AD, BC, BCE, USA, UN, CF, ROFL, LOL, ETC
    Property of The Thread

    "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon

  • DCarlson

    Say Hey Kid

    Points: 688

    GSquared (3/2/2009)


    "Please, no more! I just can't take it! Octogenarians shouldn't be talking about that kind of thing!"

    Oh, the humanity! :w00t:

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "No question is so difficult to answer as that to which the answer is obvious." - George Bernard Shaw

  • DPhillips-731960

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3904

    G Bryant McClellan (3/2/2009)


    One might also consider the oft-observed platitude that once it is time for an idea to surface, it will surface no matter what measures are taken to stop it.

    Granted, I've taken some liberties with the original quote. However, Mr. Einstein was in no more position to control the use of his theories than were/are Messrs. Date, Codd, et al. Holding a latter-day designer/developer responsible for the use to which his and his predecessors' work is put is irrational as long as the designer/developer made conscious choices around those areas under his control to ensure the correctness and security of the data at hand. Granted the notion that the data belongs to the organization, unless the designer/developer IS the organization, there is little control he can exercise of the the use of his professionally prepared data vessel beyond moral indignation and/or ethical whistle-blowing.

    Well said, especially the first statement. There would be no issue except that there are those that desire to take and/or do harm to others. Perfectly innocent mistakes rarely have consequence on a pandemical scale. And thus the paradox remains: how to have freedom with security when the two are diametrically opposed.

    "No more secrets Marty." - Sneakers

  • Dave-3000

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6186

    Phil Factor (3/2/2009)


    How much have we done to warn the public of the dangers of that come from the misuse of databases by the foolish and unscrupulous?

    You're kidding, right? I have a hard enough time warning developers with computer science degrees about the risk of insecure applications, let alone the guy at the cafe who stacks up the merchant copy of credit card receipts next to the register. :crazy:

    There is no "i" in team, but idiot has two.
  • Gift Peddie

    SSC Guru

    Points: 73570

    It is the use of that information that is the issue. Knowing that a person is 1/16th Jew, and deciding that that person no longer needs to live, are 2 completely different things.

    It was said that Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan instead of Germany because of racism, I am not so sure albeit Truman's wife's parents were racist because they would not let his Jewish friend from the war visit him at home and called Jews with derogatory names.

    Lise Meitner whose work accelerated the atomic warfare pursuits declined the invitation to join the US nuclear project but her nephew angry that she was not credited for nuclear fission volunteered for the US project. Had to change the link there were incorrect info in it.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lise_Meitner

    My immediate concern is unskilled people hired by companies and Government agencies who are responsible for situations like the Veterans Affairs data disaster. These idiots are hired by companies with large Government contracts who wants only one kind in software engineering positions and Government agencies hiring people owed political favors.

    Kind regards,
    Gift Peddie

  • Bert-701015

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1563

    1) It was said that Harry Truman dropped the bomb on Japan instead of Germany because of racism, I am not so sure albeit Truman's wife's parents were racist because they would not let his Jewish friend from the war visit him at home and called Jews with derogatory names.

    2) Lise Meitner whose work accelerated the atomic warfare pursuits declined the invitation to join the US nuclear project but her nephew angry that she was not credited for nuclear fission volunteered for the US project.

    http://www.sjmv.org/Campus/Class/scinventors/atom/Lise%20Meitner.html

    3) My immediate concern is unskilled people hired by companies and Government agencies who are responsible for situations like the Veterans Affairs data disaster. These idiots are hired by companies with large Government contracts who wants only one kind in software engineering positions and Government agencies hiring people owed political favors.[/quote]

    1) Um...the war in Europe was pretty much over by the time "the bomb" was ready to be "dropped". And my wife's uncle's friend's cousin is a racist. Doesn't make me one 😎

    2) Got to admire a person who stands on principle.

    3) To the issue at hand, it boils down to economic cost; the cost of protecting data vs. the cost of exposing data. Most companies/agencies gamble that "it won't happen to me" because the cost of protection far outweighs the cost of exposure, or so they think (Quite a few companies have gone out of business after a data breach). I have yet to work any place, public or private, that didn't have some risk of exposure. If I was aware of that exposure, I brought it to management. Sometimes, the problem was corrected, sometimes not. So, do I feel responsible? No. Am I going to continue to expose these risks? Yes. Ultimately, the decision makers are responsible...isn't that what SOX is all about?

  • Phil Factor

    SSC-Insane

    Points: 20064

    You're kidding, right? I have a hard enough time warning developers with computer science degrees about the risk of insecure applications, let alone the guy at the cafe who stacks up the merchant copy of credit card receipts next to the register.

    Very true, Oh yes. However, I'm more concerned about criminal activity on the vast scale at the moment.

    I think that business interests and IT Management will listen once the public understand the issues and have forced the international 'community' to put enforceable legal safeguards in place for Data Protection. Wasn't it the great President Truman himself who first said 'grab people by their b*lls and their hearts and minds will follow.'

    Best wishes,
    Phil Factor
    Simple Talk

  • John Erdovegi

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 256

    I always trust computers more then stupid humans.

    Computers listen to me and don't take bribes.

    Even good governments can go bad or get worse.

  • Lynn Pettis

    SSC Guru

    Points: 442334

    John Erdovegi (3/2/2009)


    I always trust computers more then stupid humans.

    Computers listen to me and don't take bribes.

    Even good governments can go bad or get worse.

    Unfortunately, computers are programmed by humans, and they do exactly what they are told to do without asking any questions.

  • John Erdovegi

    SSC Veteran

    Points: 256

    Lynn Pettis (3/2/2009)


    John Erdovegi (3/2/2009)


    I always trust computers more then stupid humans.

    Computers listen to me and don't take bribes.

    Even good governments can go bad or get worse.

    Unfortunately, computers are programmed by humans, and they do exactly what they are told to do without asking any questions.

    Yes, that's both unfortunate and fortunate, I'd hate to see the opposite. I also meant I trust the results of my own queries the most.

    In the mean time there needs to be legilation and rules that are enforced for security. And maybe some anti stupidity laws to help the poor individuals who are victims of any stupid rules. There also needs to be some form of fair recourse action allowed, too.

    And Yes we should work more closely with civil liberties organisations to assist them in understanding the risks, and divise resolutions.

  • Lynn Pettis

    SSC Guru

    Points: 442334

    More laws aren't the answer, unfortunately. It seems we have a hard enough time enforcing the ones we already have on the books.

    What is needed is more people with a solid sense of ethics/morality. Again, unfortunately we seem to be running out of these people. Too many bad role models and leaders out there and no real consequences to their actions. The rich, powerful, and famous seem to get away with things that ordinary citizens would get "the book" thrown at them.

  • Bert-701015

    SSCommitted

    Points: 1563

    Lynn Pettis (3/2/2009)


    More laws aren't the answer, unfortunately. It seems we have a hard enough time enforcing the ones we already have on the books.

    What is needed is more people with a solid sense of ethics/morality. Again, unfortunately we seem to be running out of these people. Too many bad role models and leaders out there and no real consequences to their actions. The rich, powerful, and famous seem to get away with things that ordinary citizens would get "the book" thrown at them.

    Agreed. It's the penalties we need to work on. Send these jacklegs to a Guatemalan prison...that'll make them think twice.

  • berobertson

    Newbie

    Points: 5

    I trained as an Embryologist and biologist before being 'forced' to move into the database role and while there I came across many of these moral questions: Are those that develop a system, discovery or idea responsible for the way others use it?

    It seems that personal responsibility is being removed and that the possession of a conscience is now a rare and precious thing - just look at the Banking System.

    DBAs and anyone that loads, maintains and uses information on any system should be aware of the chance that someone may use the information 'unwisely' or maliciously and so should do as much as they can to ensure that the effort needed to do this is as difficult as possible. Even then those of us in the information field can't be parents and minders to all the users. If you can say that you have done your job to my best of my ability and followed all the security and maintenance procedures set out by the organisation and any that I have thought of that the managers have no idea of how it works then what else can I do?

    As in biology we in the IT industry face an evolutionary race between those that want to use the information for evil or fun (predators and parasites) and those that want to protect it (prey???) from all but authorised use. It is an on going development and it keeps us in a job - at least until the Banking Crisis affects our organisation and the honest 'workers' get dumped first.

    We can't prevent all the misuses of information because it is big business and money rules.

    Yes I would rather have my eyes looking through a microscope 12 hours a day rather than looking at a computer screen for 8. 🙂

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