Encylopedia of Information Ethics and Security

Andrea Simmons (Consultant Security Forum Manager, British Computer Society, Worcester, UK)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 4 April 2008




Simmons, A. (2008), "Encylopedia of Information Ethics and Security", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 88-89. https://doi.org/10.1108/14779960810866828



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

It has long been the case that friends and family have no real comprehension of what it is that my day job entails, as an information security professional. However, as the sun set on 2007, a raft of “data breaches” occurred in seemingly endless succession in a manner that has raised the profile beyond the expectation of many of us in the industry. To which extent, in December 2007, “Does the UK government need your help?”… Came an e‐mail from my mother! So in reviewing the Quigley Encyclopaedia, it was a pleasure to see the depth and breadth of the subject exposed throughout the many pages of the volume – and even to be able to spot gaps, which allude to the increase in the spread of the tendrils of the concept that is “information security” – and where ethics fits into this.

There is a significant risk that this volume is seen as trying to be all things to all people and thus has been spread too widely. Sometimes it is in what is left unsaid than said that the deeper meanings are found and so there are some elements of the volume that seem to have tried too hard to prove their ethical credentials and, certainly for me, fell short of a justification for being amongst the other articles; particularly:

  • “Barriers facing African American women in technology” (p. 49) – it was not clear what the purpose of this paper was within the bounds of the volume itself. But then I am one of those women who does not like to make a song and dance about being a woman and so find any focus on the specificity overplays the stakes. I hope we will soon arrive at the point at which it is not necessary to single out women's issues. Is it ethical to assume that there are no barriers facing African men in technology?

  • “Classifying articles in information ethics and security” (p. 68) – this felt more like someone's college course work and, given the gaps in the subject that were not addressed in some way, it seemed a pity to waste pages of this good volume.

  • “Security dilemmas for Canada's new government” (p. 585) – this seemed like an excuse for a political comment; and felt out of place in itself. However, some of the content is extremely useful and generic and is sadly marred by the country specific slanting of the writing.

From the UK perspective, the volume is notable in the absence of contributions from the following stalwarts in the information security industry: Professor Fred Piper, Royal Holloway; Ross Anderson, Cambridge University; Professor Robin E. Marshall, LSE; Dr James Backhouse, LSE; or M. Angela Sasse, Professor of Human‐Centred Technology, UCL – all of whom have been acutely aware of the human elements of information security and the increasing need to focus on the ethical aspects‐related thereto. The inclusion of any or all of these individuals would have added tremendous credibility to the Encyclopaedia in UK universities, where there has been a pleasing increase in information security‐related degrees, a number of which have broadened their scope to include the field of ethics in recognition of its importance.

That said, this Encyclopaedia should not be confined to university libraries alone, given how little there is in terms of courses for security professionals. It is an excellent compendium of articles that provide a window into the key ethical issues facing technical specialists both now and in the future. It provides a useful reference guide to a wide array of subjects that can be considered and fleshed out over time.

However, the most difficult element is the fact that the content will date and age so quickly due to the pace of change within the industry. For example, there is no reference to games technology and the ethical issues that should be considered in terms of subject matters chosen and age groups targeted. It is likely that by producing this volume, in order for the content to remain current for the student or learner in the field, it will be necessary to produce further volumes with a fair degree of alacrity.

The index of key terms is an excellent element of the articles presented within the Encyclopaedia, particularly given that the subject areas are awash with terms that can have different meanings in different contexts. Acronym overload is rife within the security industry and at least this tome provides the opportunity for description to aid understanding.

The security industry has changed over time, slowly but surely. The first big shift was from a fully technical focus to a realisation that the key is in the information being protected. The second has been a shift towards an understanding of the place for professionalism. For an individual striking a course through the industry, a professional career needs to entail the undertaking of constant study to be as aware as possible of the growing “scope creep” of the realm of the industry and to ensure appreciation of the wealth of elements that need to be considered.

The industry has grown way beyond technological solutions – or perhaps, as a result of the fact that the technological solutions have not actually solved all of the issues – wider considerations are required. This Encyclopaedia helps in addressing the fundamentals of the ethical precepts. For the student who is willing to extend their thought processes beyond the expected (i.e. that security is all about firewalls and viruses), this volume allows for a much broader view to be gained and for a number of lids to be lifted on cans of worms that should actually allow for future study, investigation and, one can hope, solution design of the future.

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