In his “Data Is a Toxic Asset” blog post, Bruce Schneier argues that data is a toxic asset and that the lesson all the recent data breaches are teaching us is that storing this asset is “dangerous,” because it makes companies vulnerable to hackers, the government, and employee error. Schneier suggests addressing data breaches through stronger regulation at every stage of the data lifecycle and through personal liability of corporate executives. “Data is a toxic asset,” concludes Schneier, “We need to start thinking about it as such, and treat it as we would any other source of toxicity. To do anything else is to risk our security and privacy.”
Calling data a “toxic asset” sensationalizes the data-security conversation into alarmist territory. The term “toxic asset” has a certain meaning in financial circles and typically refers to assets that become illiquid when they no longer can be sold on a secondary market. This hardly applies to data, which is more of a lifeblood for corporations than toxic asset.