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The Net Stage

The combination of the Mosaic browser, HTML (HyperText Markup Language), and customer-ready hardware and software (i.e., hardware and software that did not require an advanced engineering degree) may have been the mixture of combustibles that ignited and accelerated market dynamics and led to the consumerization of information technology that we take for granted today because it allowed nontechnical users to access and share information in a convenient fashion. It also accelerated and set in motion the dynamics that have led to the widespread consumerization of data (including personal information) and the need for privacy engineering to reap this opportunity because individuals became the focus of observation, processing, and preference mining, which became one of the most powerful business models in modernity.

The net stage was a golden time for perceived anonymity (Figure 1-3). The belief was that with the net, no one knew who you were unless you announced yourself. The New Yorker ran a now famous cartoon showing a dog at the keyboard of a PC with the caption of “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.”[1] No one thought of himor herself in a public space online unless they announced themselves (i.e., published content or by participating in an online forum).

Figure 1-3. Net stage

The two primary privacy conversations during this time were e-marketing (i.e., spam) and identity theft. Data was increasingly transported and shared through the net, but this sharing was somewhat unidirectional. The Internet pushed data out to the public; the intranet pushed data into the enterprise. Targeted advertising and profiling were in

their infancy. The net was a means of publishing and marketing. PDAs (personal digital assistants) were not connected devices for the most part. E-mail and job listings were the killer apps of the Web.

The Extranet Stage

With the introduction of the extranet,

[2] the network moved into another major phase. The extranet stage[3] can be described as the age of the portal (Figure 1-4). If during the net stage the network was largely a push medium primarily used for publishing (business and governments) and reading information (consumers and citizens), extranets signaled the net as an interactive medium—an environment where one was invited behind the velvet rope into the enterprise but still not necessarily included as a fiduciary, contractor, or employee. Extranets were controlled spaces where authorized users could access information and tools and take care of limited things themselves. So-called self-service services were available to customers and other interested parties for everything from tech support to banking to benefits administration and more. Extranets allowed systems and functionality that used to exist only behind the firewall to be surfaced and exposed to “authorized” individuals.

Figure 1-4. Extranet stage

These developments meant two things. First, an enterprise was no longer monolithic with a distinct “inside” and “outside” the firewall. The firewall became more porous as more and more ports had to be opened to allow users, functionality, and external applications in. Second, though the notion of user IDs and passwords existed before the extranet stage, the rapid growth of extranets as an enterprise facilitating and expediting medium resulted in the rapid growth of identity management solutions. The use of the extranet is significant for more reasons than the thinning of the firewall.

Functionality, which heretofore was only possible in proprietary online environments, was now within reach of the many (not quite the masses yet). Users began to use the net in a fundamentally different way. It became a “private” space of interaction between designated teams, circles, and groups. Whereas before, the Web had been a publishing medium, it was now a sharing and collaboration medium.

Without a doubt, the ability to join groups changed the nature and kind of information that was now traveling the information highway. This also meant a change in “business intelligence.” Whether it was the data shared, the interactions, or just the metadata[4] (data about the data and data about the interactions), business intelligence had a new resource to draw from.

  • [1]
  • [2] An extranet is a private network that uses Internet technology and the public telecommunication

    system to securely share part of a business's information or operations with suppliers, vendors, partners, customers, or other businesses. It will typically have an inner firewall that protects crucial enterprise databases. There is usually an outer firewall that screens incoming data so that only invited source data is allowed in. Between the two firewalls, there may be databases that share data between external enterprises and the enterprise itself.

  • [3] During this stage, data were managed through a sophisticated firewall environment, but the

    corporate network was essentially extended to enable remote access by trusted parties.

  • [4] We will discuss metadata in detail throughout Part 2 of this book.
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