Posted on October 26, 2021

Allow and Deny List – More Descriptive Terminology in our Work

Using words to describe things can become so ingrained in to our vocabulary that whether it’s at home or at the office, words you use to describe things are so second nature that you don’t even think to there being a different way to say the same thing.

In technology, whitelist and blacklist are easily understood both internally and externally. On the surface, they are just words to describe what is good and allowed (whitelist) or bad and disallowed (blacklist). Unpacking words and their meaning, particularly when they’ve been have a long standing practice of being used and to many is seemingly innocuous, having discussions around what they really could mean to some may seem like making a proverbial mountain out of a mole hill.

Over the past couple years, we’ve been challenging ourselves to the use of whitelist and blacklist both internally and externally, and replacing whitelist and blacklist with allow list and deny list. These new phrases to describe what’s allowed and disallowed in a more accurate reflection to what they mean, and for those inside and outside of cyber security and sys admin worlds are doing our part to remove jargon and simplify the way we speak to our clients.

The added by-product is also addressing something systemic, in that something that is good is white and that something that is bad is black. When you stop and think about it, and realize the power that those words and colour association that’s been made to denote a positive or negative outcome it is a even more fitting to retire these words from our regular use.

There terms should be removed from all public documentation, but if you see it somewhere do let us know.

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