News
4/17/2008
02:20 AM
Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney
Commentary
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When You Spring A Wikileak

When thinkers of big thoughts talk about the democratizing effect of technology, they needn't look a whole lot further than Wikileaks or LiveLeak. Incendiary anti-Muslim video, copies of documents from Guantanamo -- this stuff leaves the Huffington Post and other Web 2.0 "news" sites in the dust.

When thinkers of big thoughts talk about the democratizing effect of technology, they needn't look a whole lot further than Wikileaks or LiveLeak. Incendiary anti-Muslim video, copies of documents from Guantanamo -- this stuff leaves the Huffington Post and other Web 2.0 "news" sites in the dust.Now if they could just get in to that safe in Dick Cheney's office.

But in the wake of the snooping in the medical files of Britney Spears and Farrah Fawcett, it begs the question of where we draw the line between the private and the secret. Celebrities and regular joes have a reasonable expectation of privacy; isn't the Church of Scientology similarly entitled? Or does its tax-exempt status and those Tom Cruise Cringe-o-Rama videos single it out for scrutiny and the clear light of day?

These questions aren't academic or contemporary hypotheticals for storage professionals. In the wild and woolly world of policy networking, those in the data center implement the requested controls as to who can access what. Granted that's almost always done in concert with a department head or HR and legal. But what does IT do when special cases crop up -- like the CEO's admin, for example. Does that person automatically get the same rights to all the same files and folders because they also download the boss's e-mail (and probably prioritize it and craft responses)?

So to jump back a bit, what if former Enron accountant Sherron Watkins had had Wikileaks at her disposal? I bet it would have hastened the inevitable and foreshortened the interminable legal cases that followed. And again, Enron had a reasonable expectation (maybe even a legal requirement) of confidentiality and privacy. But when you're telling billion-dollar lies and getting away with it, that completely rearranges the ethical landscape.

This sort of stuff is only going to become more common and create some tough decisions for IT, with lots of ethical gray areas ahead. Individuals are a different case, but organizations -- public and private -- may find a lot less sympathy for any need for secrecy. They may, in fact, be provoking Web leakers into action.

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