'Blacklist' and 'whitelist' terms banned by UK cyber security agency for being racist

midian182

Posts: 5,674   +43
Staff member

The National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), a branch of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), said it was implementing the change to help “stamp out racism in cyber security.”

Blacklist is a term often used in tech, and other industries, to describe a list containing banned, disallowed, or undesirable elements such as passwords, spam emails, websites, applications, etc. Whereas whitelist is the opposite, containing everything that is allowed.

“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’. There are some obvious problems with this,” wrote NCSC executive Emma W. “So in the name of helping to stamp out racism in cyber security, we will avoid this casually pejorative wording on our website in the future.”

The alteration to the terminology was prompted by a request from a customer, who asked if the agency would consider changing the wording on its website.

The open-source browser engine Chromium, which is used in Chrome, Edge, Vivaldi and others, also deprecated the terms whitelist and blacklist after being asked to do so by Microsoft engineers.

An academic study from the University of Limerick claimed terms such as blacklist, whitelist, and black sheep do “not merely reflect a racist culture, but also serves to legitimise and perpetuate it.”

For those considering complaining about the change, the NCSC’s technical director, Ian Levy, says: “If you’re thinking about getting in touch saying this is political correctness gone mad, don’t bother.”

Image credit: Olivier Le Moal and Grenar via Shutterstock

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brucek

Posts: 345   +396
The new terms seem fine to me, but I'd be interested in an etymologists opinion on the origin of "black list." The uses I'm familiar with were not related to race (and why would they, who would need a list to identify skin color?). I'd put at least even money on the original derivation having to do with day/night.
 

VitalyT

Posts: 4,917   +3,704
TechSpot Elite
That's because UK government is a bunch shitheads. One look at how badly they fumbled Covid-19 situation, with the highest death rates next to USA, just says it all.

Their parliament is like a well reequipped for toilet, you scream anything you want into it, and it will always echo back "incompetence", guaranteed.
 
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SirDigby

Posts: 594   +240
TechSpot Elite
To the people saying this is stupid - it really isn't, but what it is, is making a mountain out of a molehill, these terms aren't racist but they are certainly dated. It's a pedantic change, but people are also going to make a mountain out of a molehill in protest because it really doesn't matter.
 

Gahl1k

Posts: 41   +35
A large amount of racism is built into the language itself.

White things are considered positive.

Black things are considered negative.

White and Black aren't even "colors". White is all color combined and Black is absence of light.

It's about someone addressed these racist terms.

Bravo.
That would really make sense if it was only in English.
 
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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 2,666   +2,299
Black and White are not races, they are colours. Only racists would look at them that way!!!

Black and White are NOT colors.

They are contrasts of color.

Furthermore, the entire "Black" or "White" division as a social construct is based on racism.

Racism that says White is superior and Black is inferior.

That Racism is commonly called "White supremacist racism".

That spread of racism infected Asia, South America and post-colonized countries and it's time it was put to an end.

I support the efforts of the NCSC on this.
 

bviktor

Posts: 149   +286
Black and White are NOT colors.

They are contrasts of color.

Furthermore, the entire "Black" or "White" division as a social construct is based on racism.

Racism that says White is superior and Black is inferior.

That Racism is commonly called "White supremacist racism".

That spread of racism infected Asia, South America and post-colonized countries and it's time it was put to an end.

I support the efforts of the NCSC on this.
So, what you're saying is:

Racists have racist thoughts, therefore using the word "black" in ANY context is racist.

Makes a whole lot of sense. NOT.

Regardless of your irrelevant ramblings about the definition of "color".
 

bviktor

Posts: 149   +286
White supremacist racism that has been built into the language.
How? Did they invent the word "white" that very moment they invented white supremacy? I thought the word white is like a few thousand years old, but I might be wrong.

Don't you see? "White" in the context of white supremacy denotes a racist phenomenon. While white rice does not. Second, speaking about white supremacy does not turn you into a racist automatically. If it did, you'd be a racist already, because you merely spoke the word. Does that make sense to you? Is the concept of context that hard to grasp for you? Or do you really want to stick to primitive pattern matching and ban white rice too? Where do you draw the line?