Individual privacy, whether that of a person browsing online, employees at work, medical patients or banking patrons, is increasingly being treated like a rowdy churl best tossed into the gutter, rather than a basic right to be handled with the utmost respect.
IT managers should develop privacy policies that respect individual employees while ensuring that business processes are unimpeded.
Privacy and technology innovation advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation will get a chance to thrash out the ethical and practical questions of individual privacy at the upcoming RSA conference in San Jose, Calif., Feb. 18 to 22. Recent technology developments, including the FBIs so-called Magic Lantern keystroke logging software and the impending wide-scale use of biometrics, mean that the discussions at the conference will be much more than academic debates.
Technology, including computers, the Internet, ever-tinier video cameras and ever-larger databases, has vastly accelerated the ability to compromise individual privacy while drastically increasing the scale of monitoring. And like weapons of war, which always kill and maim far more effectively than medical arts can heal and make whole, these spy-on-your-neighbor wares have outstripped the meager policies designed to control them—including the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
In this vein, two tracks at the conference, "Law and Policy" and "Freedom and Privacy," will be of particular interest to IT managers. Ben Franklins quote before the American Revolution springs to mind: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
The topic of digital signatures and the methods and codes surrounding them in the United States and the European Union, along with the levels of privacy required by government agencies, will likely spark a lot of concern.
Beyond bureaucracy, important issues such as the responsibility for attack relay and amplification—the obligation of those whose machines are used as attack launch points to those who are harmed by that attack—will also be discussed.
These important issues deserve to be treated with deliberate thought and concern—which seems to be long absent—for the fundamental assumption that what individuals do, the books they read, the products and services they buy, how they spend their money, what health care services they use, and the mail they send and receive is first of all and presumed to be private.
Senior Analyst Cameron Sturdevant can be contacted at cameron_sturdevant@ ziffdavis.com.