Security expert: Data is the pollution of the Information Age

May 06, 2010 By Victor Godinez

During a panel discussion at the recent Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit in Dallas that otherwise was as dry as a highway in the Sahara, security guru Bruce Schneier made a provocative argument.

He contended that just as pollution was the unfortunate byproduct of the Industrial Revolution, data is the waste product of the .

And just like pollution, all the data we generate during our lives never degrades.

He noted that almost every transaction and interaction now generates data.

Whether it's buying a product with a when we used to pay with cash, or communicating via or when we used to just make a phone call, activities that previously left no trace now generate a significant digital trail.

"It's strange to us to think of getting dumped on the Internet. But for the younger generation, it's perfectly normal," Schneier said. "And it will still be normal in 20 years when that record of getting dumped is still out there on the Internet."

Schneier said the cost of storing all that data is now so low that the companies that manage those transactions and communications no longer delete old data. They archive it forever.

Figuring out how to manage all that digital flotsam and come up with rules for how and with whom we want to share it is a , he said. Otherwise, companies will develop their own rules to sell our personal information to the highest bidder.

"We think we're Google's customers, but we're not," he said. "We're Google's product that they sell to their customers."

Schneier said the current generation needs to act quickly.

"Our grandkids will judge us on how we managed data," he said.

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jsa09
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2010
Some might think it is a provocative statement - but he is absolutely right on the money. I am certain I do not want anything I said last year in print to be taken as how I feel or think about something today let alone tomorrow.

Our opinions and beliefs change over time, or at least they do for most of us. The trouble with storing all data is that stuff does go out of date and many of us have not yet adapted our behaviour to take that into account.

Unfortunately people may even organise and run an armed rebellion using beliefs that in 20 years time they would otherwise think of as naive or ignorant.