specialists in agile and advanced IT management and IT governance systems for complex business and IT landscapes
specialists in agile and advanced IT management and IT governance systems for complex business and IT landscapes

Sir Tim Berners Lee and Internet Privacy

5 April 2017


In the news
Tim Berners Lee has been speaking to The Guardian, Wired, and MIT Technology Review this week after receiving the 2016 ACM A.M. Turing Award. 

He is critical of the way the internet has developed, internet advertising techniques, and the threats posed to privacy. He is against the selling of users’ internet browsing habits and clickbait journalism. He believes that internet privacy should be a human right but it is being “trampled on”. He says that “Social networks should be thinking about how they can tweak their systems to make truth more likely to propagate, and fake news likely to fade out”.

The internet privacy dilemma
There are three issues here that need to be separated. First is the issue of the misuse of personal data, e.g. selling browsing data when the users are not aware that this is how it was to be used. The second is the validity of data, e.g. news or fake news. The third is the identity of users and their right to privacy.

This latter issue to me is perhaps the most important. Who is saying what provides valuable context. Anonymity is rarely helpful and it can be detrimental to behaviour; if people think they cannot be identified they are more likely to offend others or even participate in illegal activity. Indeed anonymity can also lead to fake news in that only when people are accountable can evidence be gathered and evaluated. There is no place for anonymity where information is used for decision making so why do we allow it when we know that public opinion and outcomes can be changed through malicious intent. Why are internet users allowed to use aliases or pseudonyms? 

Maybe somewhat ironically it is the first issue that is influencing the use of aliases. If we cannot prevent digitised medical records, internet browsing history, etc. from being sold then there is an argument for anonymising all data so that it has little value without the identity key. So I am in agreement with Tim Berners Lee, but there is an internet privacy dilemma in that we must choose between total anonymity and effective legislation against the misuse of personal data.

Technology for the security, management and governance of IT
Technology management, security and governance are all of crucial importance to a successful business but there is still little understanding in the boardroom of how these should be measured or controlled. We researched the problem and we are working on a prototype system that will introduce automation to the management and governance of IT that is suited to the digital world, that is consistent with the latest broader management thinking, and which will enable IT to be managed and controlled from the boardroom. For this to work well we need the internet privacy dilemma to be resolved.

Copyright© April 2017, Dr David Miller, ITDYNAMICS Ltd      All rights reserved

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