Web Security and Privacy

Development of the Internet and Information Technology has changed understanding of security and privacy. It is argued by many that the emergence of the internet signals the com¬ing of a new era in the history of privacy. Yet the importance of the internet and the consequences of its use are clearly not beyond controversy. The internet may well be creating a new technical scenario, but the varied and complex social and technological transformations users are experiencing today have roots which can be traced back in time.

Many researchers (Buchholz, Rosenthal, 2002; Klosek, 2000) state that technology is not privacy neutral. The overwhelming tendency of technology is to out privacy. By its very nature, technology is intru¬sive. On the one hand, advancing technology permits greater cataloging and measuring of the world around us. It allows us to create a global memory that can be easily searched. And technology allows greater control of nondeterministic processes, whether they are a person’s selection of breakfast cereal or the election of a political candidate.

Following Buchholz and Rosenthal (2002): “New technology has not only increased the amount of information circulating about individuals, but also the ease of retrieving virtually anything one wants to know about someone” (34). In spite of the fact that a person’s privacy is considered a basic human right, information about individuals is stored for many organiza¬tions.

Some data is held on computers, e. g.payroll, local authorities for coun¬cil tax, social security, Inland Revenue and health authorities, car taxation, credit card agencies and electoral rolls. These are usually separate databases, but with telecommunication advances, they could be linked together. Illegal access to databases is more likely and a person’s privacy could be said to be threatened. This privacy of personalized data held on computer databases is referred to as data protection. In his book Business, Information Technology and Society, S. D. Tansey (2002) states that the most powerful way to demonstrate the lack of privacy would be by targeting an individual who values his privacy and printing everything that could be learned about that person.

Security is maintained as the executed program cannot have access to the user’s resources such as files, printers and other computers on the same network. An applet loaded over the Internet may only create a link with the host computer from which it was downloaded. The execution of applets allows web browsers to have more interactive areas and thus extends their functions.

Security and privacy will be more difficult to maintain because wireless transmission can be easily intercepted. The strict control of operations is vital, especially where satellite devices are operations connected to a central processor, allowing easy access to files. Where password systems are adopted, a log of procedure should be built into the soft-ware. Unauthorized users should be immediately locked out of the machine. Overtime can lead to inad¬equate supervision (Information Technology 2001).

The history of busi¬ness information systems has many examples of systems that are technically efficient but do not serve the needs of the users and so are underused or misused. Because traditional programming involves a long and expensive development by programming experts much emphasis has gone into methods and techniques that ensure the correct identification of user needs, privacy and security (Andersen, Danziger 2002). Another approach is to develop quick, cheap versions or prototypes of systems that users can test for their adequacy before revision and improvement.

For instance, analyses provided by Fernandez and Miyazaki (2001) shows that: “Current legislative efforts are focusing on privacy and security issues, attempting to regulate consumer-related e-commerce by requiring certain privacy- and security-related practices as well as the disclosure of these practices” (27). An extension of this is to develop languages so straight¬forward and powerful that users themselves can develop their own systems. Critics suggest that protecting privacy with cryptography is ineffective because current software allows hackers access every bit of information (Tansey, 2002).