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The Information Age

Technological support for the Information Age can be described as starting with the invention of the Gutenberg press and moveable type, where documentation, movement, and sharing of information left the realm of the elite few and entered into the popular culture. Suddenly, the possibilities for data transfer and influence expanded far beyond the social circle of the “author.”

The introduction of the telegraph and telephone or the ENIAC (for Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, which went online in 1947 and which many IT historians call the “first electronic general-purpose computer”) was a similarly remarkable leap in the ability to process and data.

For the sake of simplicity, this book will focus on the recent past to discuss various stages where information technology, norms, practices, and rules combined to allow for data gathering and sharing within an enterprise and with individuals. Framing and noting the various risks and opportunities within various stages in the Information Age

creates a context for the ensuing discussion surrounding the mission and purpose of the privacy engineer and the call to action for the privacy engineer's manifesto, as presented later in this book.

Within the Information Age, this discussion will focus on five separate evolutionary stages, as shown in Figure 1-1.

Figure 1-1. Five stages of the age of information

Each of these stages has evolved from one to the next in a cumulative fashion, not only because information technology became more consumer friendly and more easily accessed and implemented, but also because user, creator, and builder-driven innovation forced its evolution. Also this evolution was enabled in no uncertain terms by the realities of such things as Moore's law,[1] which correctly predicted that base technologies would become inexpensive, ubiquitous, and available for experimentation and growth.

The Firewall Stage

In the firewall stage, technology was limited[2] to discrete islands of compute capabilities (Figure 1-2). Where systems were connected to external systems, a fairly simple firewall was sufficient to maintain system integrity and exclude unauthorized users. This is that period of time before the Internet was leveraged widely as a commercial tool. Online activity, for example, was limited to networks such as Prodigy, CompuServe, and AOL. Bulletin board systems (BBS) and the Internet were the province of academics and researchers.

Figure 1-2. Firewall stage

By Michelle Finneran dennedy

in the late 1980s i was, in fact but not title, one of the early chief information security officers for a conglomerate, multinational oil and gas company. My title, in reality, was temporary summer receptionist.

My retrospective title is based on one of the many duties required of me at the company. in addition to fetching coffee, screening visitors, and locking up packages when the addressee was unavailable, i was also in possession of “the Key.” The Key opened the all-important broom closet that housed, in addition to brooms, the Wang computer that i unlocked to allow the monthly reconciliation work to happen within the accounting department, under the direction of a very distinguished white-haired gentleman named Mr. gerold.[3]

i was never hacked. The spread sheeting capabilities were never compromised. The data was never leaked or misaddressed to the wrong party. i had a rare perfect security track record for confidentiality, integrity, and availability. now, the Wang computer was not linked electronically to other systems; nor did it do very much more than help the basic computations of a limited number of authorized people during the 9-to-5 workday. limited functionality helps security and prevents privacy and confidentiality intrusion but it is also, well, not very functional or exciting.

That said, i dare any current CiSo to claim that they have a perfect security track record.

The network was still a highly controlled and governed environment where connectivity was limited by the features of the operating systems, hardware, compatibility with telephone networks, and by the expectations and practices of information technology users. An enterprise would often operate using a local area network (LAN) set of networking protocols, but its functionality and capacity were limited. Typically, data from outside sources were brought into the enterprise by means of batches or created internally and converted from analog to digital. In a like fashion, data would be moved from the enterprise in batches. People still communicated using letters created on a once ubiquitous, now museum quality, IBM Selectric typewriter. During the firewall stage, enterprise data was maintained within the protection of a digital firewall[4] as well as a physical firewall: brick, mortar, and locked filing cabinet.

Because data was contained inside physical organizational boundaries, security and privacy issues were limited and were essentially defined by the perimeters of the secure environment.

It was during the firewall stage when forward-thinking policymakers documented the FIPPs and they were adopted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

[5] These principles became an internationally accepted set of guidelines for processing personal information. And, although the FIPPs clearly indicate the firewall stage was not without privacy concerns or the potential for greater harms, the primary focus at the time was the fear for government misuse of private information rather than commercial enterprise abuse. In addition, policymakers recognized the increasing pressure to establish a standard for handling data across jurisdictions.

Although the cost of memory, bandwidth, throughput, and compute and processing power were all still at a premium compared to today's capabilities, the increasing mobility of people and the pressure to create new, global communities foretold of an innovation bubble

Market dynamics and innovation brought compute power and network capabilities within reach of individuals and not solely the province of business and government with the availability of the affordable personal computer and Mosaic, the first Internet “browser” for the World Wide Web.

  • [1] Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, observed in 1965 that the number of integrated transistors doubles approximately every 2 years with concomitant falling costs and rising efficiencies associated with production.
  • [2] In all of these discussions, technology limitations and capabilities are those that are widely deployed and accessible by enterprises or individuals. The first working mobile phone, for example, existed in the 1940s but did not have the innovative impact until decades later.
  • [3] Not his real name, but he was truly a lovely man.
  • [4] A firewall is a system designed to prevent unauthorized access to or from a private network.
  • [5] Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “OECD Guidelines on the

    Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data” (September 23, 1980). oecd.org/internet/ieconomy/oecdguidelinesontheprotectionofprivacyand transborderflowsofpersonaldata.htm

 
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