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CeBIT 2014: Privacy about more than compliance, its vital to the economy: CCU

Allan Swann | May 6, 2014
The director and chief economist of the US Cyber Consequences Unit, Scott Borg, made an impassioned plea to businesses and government's to take online privacy more seriously during his lecture at CeBit 2014 at Sydney's Olympic Park.

Overblown revelations

He said the post-Snowden revelations about NSA spying have been overblown. Much of that has been machine parsing of data, and that the NSA has at most "a couple of hundred people attempting to read all languages, globally". The NSA's spying is mostly done by machines and algorithms — there simply aren't enough staff to 'human spy' on everyone. He compares the NSA surveillance to the same tracking Amazon, Facebook and Google do daily in our lives.

Borg claims the only thing the NSA revelations have achieved is to ensure that people feel 'inhibited and under threat' when online.

Ironically, Borg believes that if we actually gave more access to the machines, there would be even less of a requirement to use human eyes to spy. He proposes a two section authentication process, a threshold whereby a list of criteria would have to be achieved by any machine access before human eyes were able to look upon anyones data.

"We need to stop the hysteria at look at it analytically, and then decide where the line should be drawn," he said.

He also thinks there needs to be a culture change in the day to day way data privacy is handled by every company or public entity, regardless of size.

Rather than looking strictly at security, we need to look at storing data in different areas. Customer data and other information should never be stored in a single location, it should be broken up into separate components, spread across different types of data and stored in separate locations — both virtually and geographically.

That way if hackers breach a system they never have the entire data set of a customer, and it also means that the staff of a company can't intrude on personal data of those in the system.

Borg said it reaches beyond left and right political beliefs, and is too important to the future economy. Of particular importance is educating the political class.

He claims that, while the majority of the population has regular access to technologies, such as laptops and the internet, the political class are often detached from the realities of the tech world.

"They're people people, when they come home from work, they go fundraising. When they have to type an email, an assistant does it for them. That's why they often don't know what a USB stick or a JPEG file is."

Borg believes that it is part of why ICT thought leaders need to take the initiative and educate politicians, because they won't do it themselves.


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