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NSA PRISM Program Reminds us to Review Privacy Policies

06/19/2013 by: The SunView Team

Unless you have been living under your desk for the past few weeks, you are aware of the big data controversy in the news - the NSA secret surveillance program called PRISM. Whether you see the man behind the leaks as a whistle-blower or a criminal is up to you. But, the one thing that we in the IT Organization need to think about following the leak is our company privacy policies.

Are you personally upset by the government intrusion into your private life by tracking all of your phone calls and website activities? It all depends on your point of view and the comfort you have with your information being tracked. It happens every day on the web, sites track us with cookies. Most of these tracking activities are designed to make our web experience "better" and at worst are innocuously being used for marketing purposes.

While you are looking into your privacy policies, whether around employee BYOD or customer information, consider implementing an ITIL-based framework with process workflows that can help to insure authorized access to secure data. Check out the offer below.

As I began to write today's blog post on the NSA program PRISM causing companies to review/update their privacy policies, I was detoured by the term Big Data. How long has it been around in its current connotation? Who originated the term? In a previous blog post about Big Data, I mentioned Big Blue. Could it be a marketing term from IBM?

My search seemed simple, but as I found out, others have been searching for years for the answer. In The Origins of ‘Big Data': An Etymological Detective Story by Steve Lohr, he discusses his journey. His long search led me to the paper written by Francis Diebold of the University of Pennsylvania, A Personal Perspective on the Origin(s) and Development of Big Data": The Phenomenon, the Term, and the Discipline.

The term "Big Data," which spans computer science and statistics/econometrics, probably originated in lunch-table conversations at Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) in the mid 1990s, in which John Mashey figured prominently. The first significant academic references are arguably Weiss and Indurkhya (1998) in computer science and Diebold (2000) in statistics/econometrics. An unpublished 2001 research note by Douglas Laney at Gartner enriched the concept significantly. Hence the term "Big Data" appears reasonably attributed to Massey, Weiss and Indurkhya, Diebold, and Laney. Big Data the phenomenon continues unabated, and Big Data the discipline is emerging.

If you have never heard of the Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) then this would be a good time to get an overview. Once you understand the origins of PIPEDA, you begin to see why the Europeans are so outraged by PRISM.

"The act was also intended to reassure the European Union that the Canadian privacy law was adequate to protect the personal information of European citizens."

The 10 Privacy Principles of PIPEDA form a significant portion of Canadian privacy legislation.

These principles are:

1. Accountability
2. Identifying Purposes
3. Consent
4. Limiting Collection
5. Limiting Use, Disclosure, and Retention
6. Accuracy
7. Safeguards
8. Openness
9. Individual Access
10. Challenging Compliance

The 10 Privacy Principles of PIPEDA, also known as the 10 Fair Information Principles, come from a national standard called the CSA Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information.

I think a quote from The Matrix aptly sums it all up.

Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
Neo: You could say that.

Morpheus: Welcome to the real world.

Every day there are more stories around the NSA PRISM surveillance program. How deep does the "rabbit hole" invasion of privacy go? We will probably never know. But we in the IT Organization are tasked with keeping the company's data safe and insuring our users/customers/clients are safe from unwarranted search. We need to work with the enterprise as a whole to create an atmosphere of security, as well as, privacy of personal information. We need to be leaders, IT Champions, in these tumultuous times.