Lifestyle the July/August 2014 issue

Technology Revolutionaries

People and events who changed the face of business technology.
Posted on July 23, 2014

Bill Smith
ACORD Founder, Visionary

It takes a lot of dedication to pull this industry in a standard direction, and Bill Smith had a big role in doing that. In the early days of insurance automation, proprietary systems were built without thought for how they would communicate with each other. Once carriers and agents started passing business electronically, the need for common data definitions and messaging standards became clear.

ACORD began in 1970 as an initiative of several insurance trade associations and was focused on standardizing paper forms. This evolved into defining data architecture and the way systems send messages to each other.

Bill Smith, who died at 89 early this year, grew up in Philadelphia and moved to California when his first job with Transamerica took him westward. He later joined Fireman’s Fund to implement its first information processing system, eventually becoming CIO. There he recognized the need for a standard agent and broker interface. He established committees and conducted studies, which resulted in what is now ACORD. The industry recognized his initiative when he became ACORD’s first volunteer executive director.

Bill revolutionized our ability to communicate in this industry, making it more efficient for everyone willing to take part.

The Cloud

The Cloud
Software as a Service (SaaS)

The interior technology landscape of agencies is undergoing a fundamental change. No longer tied to specific hardware, agencies are able to enjoy greater availability and flexibility in systems without the capital expense. Cloud services allow agencies to buy servers, desktops and specific software in a subscription model. With sufficient bandwidth, it’s possible to run an entire agency’s computer systems without creating a back room full of computer hardware. Less hardware means less expense, fewer support personnel and smaller headaches. If you’re careful and thoughtful and do it right, you can change your agency from the inside out. The cloud revolutionized business offices because it got them out of the hardware business.

Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden
NSA Leaker or Government Traitor

Regardless of your feelings surrounding the leak of NSA files and program details, Edward Snowden has changed our view of what data can be collected, and is being collected, on everything from business and personal phone calls to online browsing habits. Before the NSA files were released, we all suspected the government had some level of access to our digital lives, but we never could have imagined the depth and scope of the exposure. From our personal lives to our businesses, our data is subject to government snooping—and it’s not just a simple case of hacking.

The government has compelled tech companies to turn over data and forbidden the companies to reveal their government cooperation to their unsuspecting clients. From policy changes to a general feeling of unease around publishing our social activities, the exposure of the NSA’s activities is taking its toll on the digital landscape. Hero or traitor, Edward Snowden opened our eyes to our rapidly expanding loss of privacy, and the insurance industry is just now coming to grips with its risk implications.
Big Brother has finally arrived.


Mystery Man

While it’s unclear whether the hacker known as Ree4 is Rinat Shibaev or Sergey Tarasov (or both), it’s clear they exposed the financial information of more than 100 million individuals beginning with last year’s Target Stores data breach and spreading across multiple large retailers.  The tools they created attacked retail systems across the United States, exposing the personal and financial data of hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting customers. The end result rippled through financial institutions as credit and debit cards were reissued around the world.

Ree4 sold the data on the black market exposing a wholesale-retail crime model all based on data. Ree4’s criminal act revolutionized our understanding of our vulnerability. It’s time to rethink our ideas of trust in retail transactions.

Terms of Use

Terms of Use
Surreptitiously taking ownership of your data.

Nobody saw it coming, but this is where it all began. Most software doesn’t require a contract to purchase it, but nearly every software product comes with a “Terms of Use Agreement.” In some cases these terms are passive, silently lurking somewhere on a small piece of paper tucked away in a manual or a box. In other cases they live inside the software itself, presenting themselves for your agreement when you run the software for the first time. Don’t agree to the terms? The software doesn’t run.

By attaching Terms of Use to their software, companies can force users to agree to nearly anything. Now we all agree without even reading the terms. And now the terms often grant ownership of your data to the software company. These one-sided agreements revolutionized contracts. Beware.

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