Friday, March 21, 2008

Passport Snooping

There are reports Obama's passport data was looked at by State Department employees who had no business looking at it. Interestingly enough, the article I link to mentions a similar breach back into President Clinton's passport file, but does not say anything about about this breach of personal files. Anyway enough of that.

Is your data secure from snooping eyes? To a certain extent it is, but all companies using computers to manage and work large volumes of data your information is probably okay due to the small minnow in a large school scheme. However, do know your data may be used for testing.

Programmers need to test their work. Testing business systems is rarely as simple as just "running the program". In fact, the program change may be less than one hour of work and less than a whole line of code, but the testing may take weeks to complete. Not only do we need data resembling real world data we may need lots of it. One of the better ways to create test scenarios is to copy data from a companies real world environment (hereafter referred to as "production").

The alternative is to create the data from scratch, but most often the programmer does not know how to create reasonable data. Data in most systems is exhaustively and continuously edited and unless the programmer is very familiar with the rules up to the point they are testing it may be a huge effort to learn those rules. To create the data I am working on from scratch may actually take weeks to create and then I still have to run the tests.

As it turns out, this snooping was done on an equal opportunity basis, that is the passport files of Senators Clinton, Obama, and McCain were looked into. Not a matter for the Secretary to involve herself in and more a matter for the managers of the naughty employees to give the naughty ones a good talking too.

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