75th Anniversary Snapshot: Data sharing – from floppy disks to Facebook risks

Last month, the U.S. Senate spent two days grilling Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about the abuse of personal data submitted by its customers, which may have been used to help sway the 2016 Presidential election. Today’s emphasis on the integrity of personal data made us nostalgic for a time not long ago, when the internet was just a pipe dream, phones were mostly corded and social media was still a phone call or a letter in an envelope.

For example, we got a chuckle out of the cover of the February 1985 issue of Air Cargo World, showing a woman sitting at hopelessly outdated – by today’s standards – mainframe terminal under the words “Space Age Technology.” But it was the May 1987 issue of Air Cargo World, published exactly 31 years ago this month, that really caught our eye. The article “Fending Off Data Thieves” was intriguing, not just for the use of a floppy disk in the artwork to represent the era’s cutting-edge technology, but for its partial relevance to our current concerns about air cargo data.

True to the pre-internet era, most of the safety tips involved analog solutions, such as “controlling computer access” and “tightening external security.” A closer look, however, revealed advice that could still be given by cargo IT managers today: “Computer users should have passwords that are easy to remember, but not easy to guess by chance.” This seems humorously basic to tech-savvy readers now, but after three decades, the easily hacked password is still one of the biggest vulnerabilities exploited by hackers. Adding to the irony, writing down hard-to-remember passwords today seems like a safer method than assuming hackers won’t be able to foil a typical office firewall.

But the biggest difference between 1987 and 2018 seems to be the divergent ideas about transparency and data sharing. The 1987 article focused mostly on treating every hard drive like Fort Knox and cutting off access to the scary outside world, whereas most of today’s articles on logistics technology revolve around just getting the various stakeholders in the supply chain to talk to each other and share as much information as possible in real time. Perhaps we taught forwarders to hold onto their data too well.

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