Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Privacy and Security -- A primer

Privacy and Security
What an odd picture to describe privacy and security -- or is it?

The picture is of a person and that person is in protective garb.  Can you indentify the real name of the person, the  purpose and the location?  No?  This picture is in the public domain of the Internet and is freely accessible to all viewers.  Yet, I will prove it has protected the identity of the person even if the digital image is not secured.

What is Privacy?

Privacy is the protection of personal Identity.  It is that simple.  The owner of ALL personal data is the actual person themselves.  The rest of us are just custodians of that information.  It is not just an Information Technology problem or solution.  The information technology industry gets measured by a double standard in both privacy and security; however, all custodians have the same responsibilities and accountabilities.  The advent of the free flowing Internet has increased awareness and complexity but not the underpinnings of what privacy and security really is.

Privacy IS about;


Your family
Your community

It is about:

Your rights as an individual
Your rights as a community
Your obligations as a custodian of personal information

There are 10 principals to Privacy Policy and all must be adhered to safeguard the individual.  Most organizations would pass the acid test but great care must be done to ensure all elements are being addressed.

The 10 Principals are;


1.   Accountability -- An organization is responsible for personal information under its control and shall designate an individual or individuals who are accountable for the organization's compliance with the following principles.

2.   Defined Purposes -- The purposes for which personal information is collected shall be identified by the organization at or before the time the information is collected.

3.   Consent -- The knowledge and consent of the individual are required for the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information, except where inappropriate.

4.   Limiting Collection -- The collection of personal information shall be limited to that which is necessary for the purposes identified by the organization. Information shall be collected by fair and lawful means.

5.   Limiting Use, Disclosure, Retention -- Personal information shall not be used or disclosed for purposes other than those for which it was collected, except with the consent of the individual or as required by law. Personal information shall be retained only as long as necessary for the fulfillment of those purposes.

6.   Accuracy -- Personal information shall be as accurate, complete, and up-to-date as is necessary for the purposes for which it is to be used.

7.   Safeguards -- Personal information shall be protected by security safeguards appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.

8.       Openness -- An organization shall make readily available to individuals specific information about its policies and practices relating to the management of personal information.

9.  Individual Access -- Upon request, an individual shall be informed of the existence, use, and disclosure of his or her personal information and shall be given access to that information. An individual shall be able to challenge the accuracy and completeness of the information and have it amended as appropriate.

10.Challenging Compliance -- An individual shall be able to address a challenge concerning compliance with the above principles to the designated individual or individuals accountable for the organization's compliance.

What is Security?

Security is the actual protection of the personal information itself.  Modern technologies today have more than surpassed the security tests.  From Networks, encryptions, and security architecture the ability to secure is there and people should take comfort in this. 

So why are we seeing so many security violations.  Well in fact we are not seeing security violations we are see privacy violations.  When we hear of credit card information being obtained from recycled computers we are in fact witnessing a violation of principal number 7 which is Safeguards.  The custodians of the personal information did not take safeguards to ensure continued security. 

There is, today, a technology to solve any and all security issue.  Yes the hackers and crackers (there is a difference) can break the codes and that is why security is fluid and ever evolving.  Security is a never ending challenge and everyone must be diligent.  When it comes to protecting identity all of us should be alert and conscientious.  When I speak of Security I always refer to two realisms.  The first is, “locks keep honest people out”.  This refers to preventing, truly, the accidental breach.  The second truism is “people do not break into Fort Knox to steal corn flakes”.  This last one refers to the level of security you have should be equal to and/or  greater to what you are protecting.  Privacy is the top of the food chain on this one. 

In conclusion

Privacy protects identity and security protects the private information. They must work hand to hand to truly be effective.  Referring back to the picture above, yes I am the person in the picture.  But what is my name for it is not Buchi.  The armour I wear protects my person against my assailant’s harm.  Where was the photo taken and why was it taken is the mystery? 

Privacy and Security should not be complex, for if it is, then the human element will likely breach it by writing down the password or leaving the keys to the camp under the carpet.




  1. Really, really interesting take. Had not thought of it all in this way.

    Thought of submitting some of your writings to "Wired" or other tech magazines? You have some "column" stuff for sure.

  2. I just like the outfit... where can I get me one?