Information is Volatile

by on September 10, 2007 · 8 comments

When I talk about information, I sometimes describe it as being volatile, like gasoline or acetone. It has similar properties to these substances, which evaporate and dissipate rapidly. They are very difficult to contain once exposed to the air.

Jeff Jonas has a post ruminating on how personal information multiplies in enterprises. It’s a good illustration of how “volatile” it is. It helps to illustrate how difficult a task it would be to ask organizations to provide access to customers’ personal information, for example. It helps show that the best protection for privacy is keeping information bottled up. Once you open the gas can, don’t expect to be able to collect the atoms of gasoline you’ve released.

The prescription? If you want to keep all your gasoline, put it in a sealed container. Likewise, if you want to keep your privacy, don’t tell people stuff.

Sorry if these observations require too much personal responsibility, effort, and discretion, but I think that’s the way it is with things that have these properties.

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