Leadership:The Edward Snowden Saga in Context - Part II

by Administrator 25.Jul.2013 18:32:00

To safeguard privacy in the context of the post below would then appear to be an impossible task!

For more than decade Harding Intelligence Programs have heightened awareness of diverse organizations to the importance of managing the people role in the gathering and protecting of information. The Snowden saga serves as a reminder that prompts me to revisit the our basic approach to safeguarding privacy. 

With regard to managing technology our approach is inspired by Marshall McLuhan, a forward thinking Canadian who wrestled with the influence of technology in the modern times… albeit before the advent of  the internet and the digital era: “any technology that ... creates extensions of the human body and senses” (McLuhan 1995, 239). In other words extends rather than replaces human capacity!

McLuhan highlighted the importance of managing new technology:

"When new technologies impose themselves on societies long habituated to older technologies, anxieties of all kinds result. Our electronic world now calls for a unified field of global awareness; the kind of private consciousness appropriate to literate man can be viewed as an unbearable kink in the collective consciousness demanded by electronic information movement. In this impasse, suspension of all automatic reflexes would seem to be in order. I believe that artists, in all media, respond soonest to the challenges of new pressures. I would like to suggest that they also show us ways of living with new technology without destroying earlier forms and achievements. The new media, too, are not toys; they should not be in the hands of Mother Goose and Peter Pan executives. They can be entrusted only to new artists."

Similarly, Alan Turing believed in the evolution of computers and their ultimate competence yet did not dismiss the traditional arguments against the premise that machines can think. They ranged from proven mathematical uncertainty to the myriad differences gender, culture, life experience and language bring to the thinking and communication (expression of thinking) process. Today these factors still bring uncertainty to those who would like to believe a machine is able to provide an unequivocal result and complete accuracy. 50 years after the Turing Test came into being it is interesting to consider the following:

  • People program computers/software
  • People request, access and process computer/software data
  • People service/upgrade computers/IT platforms
  • People provide energy that drive computers
  • People are still faced with the unknown
  • People are imperfect and therefore fallible…
  • Has technology reached the point where it can override human irrationality and fallibility?
  • Has technology reached the point where it can transcend language, cultural and experiential differences/interpretation?
  • Can a computer calculate or predict outcomes of unknown scenarios?
  • Can a computer deal with abstract, intangible or unrecorded concepts?
  • Can a computer imagine or generate original thought?
  • Is a computer naturally curious?
  • Can a computer rival/replace human thinking?

Perhaps the greatest and most advanced technology is only as efficient as the people who created it. Simple logic then decrees that as humans are fallible, then so must be technology. Nuance and intuition, as well as unknown variables cannot be factored into any surveillance equation. Would it not then be a misguided move to hand thinking, vigilance and strategy over to the latest technology? Rather the intelligent and circumspect use of evolving technology to both gather and protect information should be the objective!

Broad Business Guidelines/Habits (obvious yet hard to enforce) that will Ensure Privacy:

  • Talk with a purpose - Say no more than is necessary when talking about work and sensitive issues - Careless talk costs money
  • Be aware and circumspect when talking about work related issues
  • If called by a stranger, as a matter of course, ask for identification and ask where they heard of you/got your name
  • When approached, make others work for information - Ask questions such as: "I'd be happy to answer that - would you like to make an appointment?" or "Why are you asking?"
  • Everytime you downlaod/use an app (especially of it's free) ... Do you ask if you are part of a data-mining operation... Do you care?
  • Obey/follow corporate guidelines when using the Internet - Firewalls, anti-virus, cookie settings, encryption of e-mails and hard disk etc.
    Clear cookies, browsing history, your mailbox and store data in a safe database regularly
  • Check software/app privacy policies...
  • Think before you press Enter/Send - E-mails are dangerous - Be aware that every message can be tracked/recovered
  • Avoid giving friends and family files/software/database downloads from your server
  • Monitor exposure to business partners, associates and other third parties. Ensure their accountability to security standards - Insist upon periodic security audits and vulnerability assessments

For more information on our Corporate Intelligence Programs call: (416) 962-6700

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