“As we work to fill open cybersecurity jobs and create a more diverse and inclusive industry that is better able to combat cyber threats, inclusivity, and the intentionality that requires, has to permeate every aspect of the field, including the language. ‘Blacklist’ equates black with bad and white with good,” Camille Stewart, the global head of product security strategy at Google and the co-founder of #ShareTheMicInCyber, an initiative to highlight and raise the voices of diverse people in cybersecurity, told Motherboard in an online chat. “Although not the most important part of the work to be done, the roots in systemic racism and the subtle message it sends about the industry matter.”
Personally, I’m on board with disusing the phrases “blacklist” or “whitelist”, and “master” and “slave” in technology. I remember from years ago, putting together desktop computers with IDE drives that had jumpers for “master” and “slave” drives, which I had thought was a strange terminology, having been taught about the horrors of slavery in the United States and elsewhere.
These terms are out dated, at best, and offensive, at worst. As Camille Stewart said in the quote, this is probably not the biggest hurdle for making the STEM fields more appealing for non-White people, it’s on the list, and it’s low hanging fruit.
Having said that, I also think that it’s not even the best reason for getting rid of these terms. Years ago, the large technology company that I worked for had started to change its internal and external documentation to change the term “motherboard” to “mainboard”. The reason? It’s a global company. The term “motherboard” is a strange one in English, and unclear on exactly why that term even is what it is. How does “motherboard” translate into Russian, Chinese, French? Same think with “blacklist” or “whitelist”. Do those colors have similar connotations in languages other than English? Perhaps, perhaps not.
From the same article:
Last year, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) wrote in a blog post that “there’s an issue with the terminology. It only makes sense if you equate white with ‘good, permitted, safe’ and black with ‘bad, dangerous, forbidden.’” As the NCSC noted, not only alternatives such as blocklist or denylist are not offensive and harmful, it’s also just clearer and less ambiguous language that expresses exactly what the goal of these actions are: deny, or block something.
Regardless if anyone finds these terms offensive or not, they’re less clear than they cold be. As the Internet is humanity’s largest ongoing construction, the terms used to engineer it and all adjacent technology needs to be as clear as possible, free from culturally specific terminology, so that it can be translated clearly and easily.