dinsdag 5 april 2016

We are the person of interest

Yesterday I read an article about the TV-series 'Person of Interest'. It was about the making of the final season (5) and how we in the Netherlands are currently at season 3. Something in there triggered me in writing this post. There was a paragraph in there that said the series had mostly become popular due to the fact that it seems that this fiction is happening right before reality catches up (which you obviously not notice when you are two seasons behind the current one). It was right before Snowden made his information public, that in the series already was mentioned that governments were collecting data about everyone. It made me aware again and I had the urge to make others aware too.

I like watching 'Person of Interest'. I think - for me- its like watching a sort of reality-horror/thriller show. It occurred to me that when you are open to pick up the signs you see things that aren't that far fetched at all. On the contrary: I find more and more things become more plausible every day and I even notice some of these things have become reality.

Most testers like being involved in the state-of-the-art and designy side of testing; mobile, test automation, usability... I see testers specialize in 'performance' and 'automation'. I see -alas- still only a small amount of testers that care about Business Intelligence, Big Data and Analytics and I see a growing interest in security testing. But.... it anybody giving it any thought WHAT data they are exactly protecting with these security tests? I don't think so. I don't think that testers (in general) are giving it a second thought that the data they are testing for is 'proper data' in the ethical sense of the word. We test data for correctness, we test if data has been processed correctly by the ETL layer, we test if data is in the right format so our systems can use it, we test the readability and meaning of data to our business. BUT WE DON'T TEST THE ETHICAL USE OF DATA!!! 

I think we should start caring about this! In a world where we become more and more dependent on information technology, where data AND predictive data is becoming more and more a factor in decisions of governments, society and companies to treat people in a certain way, in- and excluding them even. Think this is not going to happen because our societies aren't going to allow that? Guess again, read it and weep: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/girls-and-unmarried-women-in-india-forbidden-from-using-mobile-phones-to-prevent-disturbance-in-a6888911.html 

We should, no we MUST make a difference. We as testers are -I think- most fit to check designs and data definitions on unethical use of data and information: we dare asking questions, are skeptical by nature, are curious and think like bad guys (girls) when we need to. We can make a difference when testing the software and systems, particularly databases and data warehouses, data mining software and other data processing systems, by checking them on compliance to data protection acts and that only data is collected  that is actually needed for providing the service etc. Which, I can tell you from experience, isn't the case. In each and every system that is being build right now and has been build in the past data is being collected and stored that isn't a necessity for the service being provided. The designers have just been THINKING LAZY in expense of a bit of privacy-loss.  Ever wondered why a bank needs your gender to conduct business? They don't.

So back to Person of interest. I know that at least a more than one person sees this show and thinks it's science fiction, just like StarWars is. But I'm telling you now: this is reality. current. This machine has been build and it's only a matter of time that the information collected is used in a way we as society might benefit form but also might find not so pleasant. The 'ordering pizza' example might be funny, but it's a genuine wake-up call. Time to act now!  For sure: 'you are being watched'!