The world is preoccupied with security.
In our personal lives, we live with the constant fear of some kind of nebulous “terrorist attack.” Or on a smaller scale we fear the strange man in the shopping mall who might entice our children away with a lollypop; or if we are part of some ethnic minority we might fear the attention of the drunken yobbos out looking for trouble.
In the online world, we secure our connections with passwords and ID tokens and all manner of identity management products, yet we fill up our social media digital homes with enough information to allow anyone to know what we own and when we’re out of town. The real-world burglars must be very happy right about now!
We want to take a flight and must endure being treated as if we are the terrorist or burglar noted earlier.
A long time ago, Scott McNeally, then CEO of Sun Microsystems, famously observed that we no longer have any privacy and that we should just get over it. But was he right? Has privacy vanished or have we still managed to keep that particular white flag under our coats?
In fact is there a dichotomy between security and privacy? Does an increase in one cause a decrease in the other, or do they rise and fall together.
There are security products - door locks spring to mind - which both increase security and also add to the perception of security; we all feel safer with the doors and windows locked. There are others - perhaps the all-new “virtual strip search” machines at airports - which have a dubious ability to increase security and at the same time, by their very presence have the effect of reducing the feeling of being secure as they very clearly highlight the threats being addressed.
The whole issue is a juggling act. Governments, Corporations and even old Mrs. Smith down the road all have a part to play in raising or lowering our self measure of security. Do their products help or hinder? And how often does what they say match with what they do?
In this column, I hope to explore the whole social territory of security by addressing what might be called “the perception of security.” I’ll look at many of the products and themes already mentioned and also many others. I’ll be praising where appropriate or alternately pointing and laughing.
David Heath has over 20 years experience in the IT industry, specialising particularly in customer support, security and computer networking