Trusted and Trustworthy Information Technology

Trusted and Trustworthy Information Technology

Piotr Cofta (Trusted Renewables Ltd, UK) and Hazel Lacohée (BT Technology, Service & Operations, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch435

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Considering that the construct of 'trust' suffers from very many different definitions (McKnight & Chervany, 1996), it is not surprising that 'trusted ICT' and 'trustworthy ICT' are not far behind in being ill-defined. While every discussion of the 'meaning of trust' (and trustworthiness) seems to quickly turn into a turf war regarding definition, an abbreviated list of the main views may be still beneficial.

This overview focuses on trust and trustworthiness in relation to technology, and does not address trustworthiness (or trust) in general; an extensive review of the various views of trust however, can be found e.g. in (Cofta, 2007). This overview starts with a brief historical engagement, progressing to the discussion of three important distinctions that define the modern approach to trust in ICT as well as to trustworthy ICT.


While discussions of trust can be traced back to antiquity, it is only recently that a role for technology has been forged in that context. Historically, an isolated but important reference to the technological artefact of a 'trusty sword' can be found in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Act 5, Scene 1). However, a dependence on technology and the awareness of that dependence has only come about with the development of the industrial revolution.

Two conflicting views developed over time. First, technology has been attributed with certain Promethean features, those of improving the lives of the masses and delivering progress. This view has persisted through to recent times and is represented in works such as (Goklany, 2007). However, technology has also been treated with scepticism, doubt, and even fear, and that can be traced back probably to the legend of disobedient Golem or to the seemingly never-ending series of technology catastrophes. Luhmann (2005) reaffirms this view stating that the introduction of technology actually increases the overall risk, rather than eliminating it.

Microelectronics changed the dynamics of this discussion as it reinforced the intentional stance towards information technologies. The best (and the simplest) explanation was quite often in believing that ICT systems have intentions of their own. Trustworthiness of such man-made intentional systems naturally deserved consideration in the same way as trustworthiness of humans, re-using and re-purposing our natural ability to ascertain personal trustworthiness.

It is only recently that people generally started to realise their mistake in attributing intentionality to technology alone (Lacohée et al., 2008). This is due to an increased familiarisation with new technologies, active participation and education, combined with a series of breaches of social trust (Broersma, 2010). In combination this made people realise that behind every technology there is an organisation, and that the organisation - rather than the technology alone - should be an object of trustworthiness, thus leading to an approach that is inherently socio-technical.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Trust-Based: Every application where trust is used to aid the decision regarding the particular choice that has to be made.

Trust Negotiation: Protocol by which parties disclose their requirements and collect evidence that substantiate their trust.

Trusted Element: Component that is trusted by at least one party (operator) because of its security and tamper-resistance.

Trust: Willingness to rely on another agent to perform actions that benefit oneself in a given context.

Trust Assurance: Process that provides sufficient guarantees about the existence of a sufficient level of trust to continue with a particular action.

Trust Management: Process by which symbolic representation of trust (certificates, keys, tickets) is detached from their origin, transmitted, processed and reasoned about.

Trusted Computing: Class of computing systems where the trusted element is used to assure the security of the system.

Trustworthiness: Property of an agent to act in the best possible interest of another agent, considering circumstances.

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