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Oracle Donates Software for Big Brother Database 215

Posted by michael
from the replication-is-most-popular-feature dept.
8onal writes: "C|Net is reporting that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has followed through with his threat, I mean promise, to assist with Uncle Sam's crimefighting efforts. "...Ellison said he has delivered Oracle's 9i database management software to a U.S. government agency for national security, but he declined to give further details, such as which agency or for what usage." Seeing as how he has already supplied the CIA with software, I bet it went to another 3-letter group."
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Oracle Donates Software for Big Brother Database

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  • by mwillems (266506) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:55AM (#2659074) Homepage
    Seems to me Larry Ellison is being rather opportunistic here, plus, this fits in well with his world vision, which has always been centralistic and in favour of control - I remember Oracle giving me a presentation once about their expense system at Oracle: all expense reports worldwide! go to (and are approved in) one central database in the US head office. Not for good database reasons but for control reasons. See also the NIC (thin client)- central control, again.

    Having said that, opportunism in the light of Sep 11 is not restricted to Oracle. Companies like Siebel, MS, and many others have also tried to gain market share. I am sure we all see through this.

    Michael
    • by bani (467531)
      Of course he's being opportunistic. Lots of people have been shamlessly exploiting the 9/11 attacks for their own selfish motives.

      The white house is doing it, congress is doing it, spammers are doing it. I'm actually suprised m$ hasnt stepped up to the plate already...
      • it's probably a joke, but M$ will cash in if ppl listen to this [modernhumorist.com]:

        Subject: Fwd: Please participate - satellite project

        Help me spread the word about this advisory from NASA. On Thursday night at 9 PM Eastern time, a satellite photo of the United States will be taken, showing our nation united.

        If you own a PC-compatible laptop, NASA has requested that you purchase Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system and install it onto your computer. The process is simple and should take about an hour. It's Microsoft's best operating system ever and lets you get more out of the Internet!

        Take the laptop outside at 9 PM, start up Windows XP, and hold the "Start" screen up to the sky to symbolize our new "start" at coming together and fighting terrorism. Visit microsoft.com for more on how you can eXPerience more!


        Pssshhh, is all I can say (thanks to a speech impediment I developed after teasing some rather aggressive Gerbils)
    • Seems to me Larry Ellison is being rather opportunistic here...

      A business that isn't opportunistic to some degree will fail. With businesses involved in disaster recovery for instance, not stepping up marketing efforts in light of 9/11 would be foolish. People's minds are more tuned to the message, as they should have been before the events. I think the difference between that scenario and what Ellison is doing is that he is trying to use the tragedies to create a perceived need for something that will be of little real value and might cause considerable harm. In short, he's not far removed from those collecting for bogus charities "helping" New York Police and Firefighters' families.
    • I must add here that central systems are typically good for the employee. I recently left a company which had many different, regional expense reporting systems. On the occasion that I would perform work in a different region than where I lived (which, as a consultant, happened often), I would have to deal with tons of extra red tape to get my money back from the company. With one central system, work for another region would be no different from work at home as far as expenses are concerned.

      Anyway, I know this is a bit off-topic, but Larry's not totally crazy.
    • I'd be willing to bet that anyone will be able to login with SCOTT/TIGER and SYSTEM/MANAGER so it won't be too hard to figure out what data they are collecting.
    • their expense system at Oracle: all expense reports worldwide! go to (and are approved in) one central database in the US head office. Not for good database reasons but for control reasons.

      The Register [theregister.co.uk] has a couple of good stories about how this system screwed over two other vast enterprises that tried to use it: Marconi [theregister.co.uk] and Cisco [theregister.co.uk].
  • My question is, did the XXX agency ASK for a copy of the software, or did Larry just up and give it to them.

    I think its more likely that he tracked down an address and just mailed it out so he could get in the CNET headlines.. as well as increase pressure to implement his proposed system.
    • Geez, isn't that called bribery/lobbying/whatever-diminutive-politically-c orrect-term ?

      "Hello Mr Evil NSA Dude, please treat yourself to a free copy of our multi-bazillion-dollar product and do with it as you please. And the next time you're shopping around for enterprise software, please take the time to think of the friendly folks at Oracle."

      which directly translates into :

      "Hey wise guy, take this crap and shove it up your ass. I don't care, it didn't cost me a penny. And if you don't play nice, we're gonna make a big publicized stink about it."

      you do the math.
  • Building (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dbitter1 (411864)
    Even with the software, the database still has to be built... I assume some of the radical [domestic, non-terrorist] militias [/cults/political activists] the ATF would love to watch aren't going to be nice enough to forward dirt on themselves in electronic format...
  • by Raindeer (104129) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:58AM (#2659084) Homepage Journal
    If the US governement really falls for this obvious marketing technique, they are dumber then I allready thought they were. Having worked within the Dutch government I know that once a database has been addopted, it hardly ever gets replaced for another dbms. They might build another front end, upgrade the dbms, but switching from vendor is just not an option. It is too scary to make such a big step. Oracle knows this and supplying the database for a national ID-card will mean business for life.

    Also don't forget, that there will be many government agencies that want to tie in their database with the national ID-database or base their database on it. Oracle will have a foot and a leg in the door there as well.
    • Unless of course, they were intending using Oracle anyway. Something that doesn't seem unlikely given the size of the project.
      • Unless of course, they were intending using Oracle anyway. Something that doesn't seem unlikely given the size of the project.

        Maybe, though on this side of the ocean, IBM with OS/390 and DB2 seem to be most popular for massive databases. But since they're getting it for free.... I am willing to bet they haven't payed yet. Larry Ellison is still a long way from being as rich as Bill Gates, so he won't pass on any nickel he finds on the streets. :-)

    • >>but switching from vendor is just not an option.
      nope, it is always an option. Its not an if the people implementing the middleware were lazy and used all the database specific functions. If the middleware is implemented in such a way that it only requires a generic API (such as JDBC, ODBC, and yes I know not every db implements all optional JDBC/ODBC features), changing the database is not a difficult task and I've seen it in big corps. Its also not an option when a contract is still effective.

      I use pure JDBC, I switch db from Oracle to SQLServer2k to DB2 or MySQL back and forth. Stupid middleware implementation is to be blamed. And Larry won't get business for life if a better cheaper db is out there.
      • by wirefarm (18470) <jim@mmMENCKENdc.net minus author> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @10:56AM (#2659524) Homepage
        >>>but switching from vendor is just not an option.
        >nope, it is always an option.

        Rarely.
        In many gov't shops, the Oracle sits on the one Sun box in the place and is only touched buy the ouside vendor-unix guys who stop in once-in-a-while to tweak it. (Those guys who never come to lunch with you.)
        You may have in-house people who can fsck around with an in-house built Ms Sql Server or Oracle db, but that rarely has anything to do with that one lonely off-limts box in the corner.

        Technically, "yes". All you have to do is email the vendor and get a data dictionary for the 'box-in-the-corner', but in reality, don't hold your breath. Either you will never get it, or worse, you will, then you realize that it is such crap that it will take two years before you could possibly get a system working in any other home-grown rdbms. They have the advantage: though the databases are total crap, design-wise, they've spent the last ten years polishing these turds into bombproof 'systems'.
        (Ignore the little man behind the curtain... Ignore that box in the corner...)
        I wish it weren't so...

        Cheers,
        Jim in Tokyo
      • If you can switch between RDBMs so trivially then you have not optimized your queries. All RDBMs vendors extend SQL to allow you to optimize your queries to work with their database engine. For instance Oracle allows you to put in hints, also Oracle had a bug where certain embedded comments crashed the parser but SQL Server, MySQL, etc, work just fine. PostgreSQL has a slightly different implementation of aliases then Oracle and on and on and on. So yes, if you implement a trivial database you can switch between all the vendors in a trivial manner. But when have hundreds of different queries that are joining multiple tables and searching through millions of records, you better be optimizing to the Vendors implementation.
  • Oh dear.

    credit cards are among the easiest systems to defraud.

    And here Ellison is touting them as an example for the national ID system to follow?

    It's just more proof that Ellison is hitting the crack pipe especially hard these days.

    And AFAIK Ellison has still not answered those simple questions that were posed to him, eg "what terrorists, if any, would a national ID card system have stopped?"
    • Perhaps he meant the security which companies such as Visa employ. CC's themselves aren't very secure (in terms of fraud) but you can bet Visa's systems are rock solid. You may hear that blah-blah.com's web site was cracked open are CC numbers got at, but that's nothing to do with Visa's own database security (which, incedentally rund DB2) -- so is Ellison saying the US Government should move to DB2?! :-)
  • Standards (Score:4, Funny)

    by Iamthefallen (523816) <Gmail name: Iamthefallen> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:58AM (#2659087) Homepage Journal


    Ein folk, Ein reich, Ein RDBMS?

    What? The form you must fill as you enter the US asking if you're a terrorist, nazi or have participated in any genocides recently isn't enough?

    • by Tackhead (54550)
      > Ein folk, Ein reich, Ein RDBMS?
      >
      > What? The form you must fill as you enter the US asking if you're a terrorist, nazi or have participated in any genocides recently isn't enough?

      Nope. It'll have a new line: "Are you now, or have you at any time in the past, administered a Sybase server?"

  • Umm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by powerlinekid (442532)
    Don't companies give software to the govt all the time, or am I missing something? I know they're donating it but I don't think the problem here is this. I think the problem is Ellison's continued push for those id cards and mass public data records (bettering those of the fbi, etc). I'm sure this is unconstitutional somewhere involving privacy, etc. I'm just waiting for microsoft to roll out Windows XP smartcard edition, so not only will .NET passport book you a flight online but you'll need it to get you on the damn plane.
    • Re:Umm... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by grid geek (532440)
      From a UK perspective we don't get software given as such but have meaningful "parnerships" with industry where they match government funding for research projects, usually meaning software. This gives them a zero opportunity cost, ensures all the students / researchers know their software (and will take this knowledge into industry a couple of years later) and get access to the latest research. It's not a problem, it's just part of the research business and doesn't usually cause too many problems.

      I don't know too much about the US constitutional issues but the right of privacy (or right to be left alone according to the Supreme Court) doesn't usually extend to hiding from the gov.

      I guess a single system would be good to tie in birth & death certificates, tax records, driving licences, medical stuff etc from the perspective of making it really hard to create false identities (or really easy if you happen to be the government) but what of identity theft?

      All you'd need to do is get in the one system and you could take over someones life. Kinda scary. Especially if you could then reclassify someone as a terrorist at the stroke of a key.
    • Paul Allen of Microsoft fame, to name another financial heavyweight, is also putting his money where his beliefs are. I respect their rights to support causes that they like, I just wish there were a little less lying and misdirection by them, plus a little less blind acceptance by the other parties involved.

      Or else, that I was only a hairsbreadth [userfriendly.org] away from [bbc.co.uk] being able to do the same kind of things. (-:

  • "Ellison has followed through with his threat, I mean promise,"
    What's so bad with that?
    Control isn't bad itself.
    If I put a Troll or an Off-topic I get a -1 and if I put an interesting comment I get a plus.
    That's control, and is good. Moderation is used very bad sometimes. But the goal is fine.
    What matters is not that the CIA has that information, but what does with it.
    • by 1D10T (455536)
      Basically you are right. The problem I see is that the government might be able to put it to bad uses. If you allow certain control this might be ok while there is the current government. But remember what happens when a person like Hitler gets the power. He may put the existing infrastructure to his own bad uses. That is the time when you see you shouldn't have allowed the control, because it could be used to your own bad.
      • Security and privacy just don't go together. Americans are soo keen on their "privacy" but they are also the country that has the nice systems like Carnivore and Echelon. And what do these systems do? Tap telephones, sniff email etc... It seems to me that privacy is alright as long as it's the American's privacy and then still, who can say that those systems (and others) aren't used today to spy on Americans as well?
        I don't see why having a identity card is such a bad thing. Today, you already need a driver's license if you want to by alcohol or a social security number if you want a job. Tell me, what's the difference?
        • Not only americans are observed by Echelon.
          US wins Spain's favour with offer to share spy network material [smh.com.au]
          ETA (a terrorist group from Spain) is one of the tarjets of Echelon.

          And I'm sure that CIA is not planing to get information only about Americans but about any person in the world that get caught in his net.
          Even worst: "Unlike information on US citizens, which officially cannot be kept longer than a year, information on foreigners can he held without time limit."
          So Echelon is a WWP not only USA.
      • Oh, God, no. Someone's given the government software they could put to bad uses. It's so lucky that our government doesn't have its own money with which it can purchase software to put to bad uses. Then we'd really be up a creek.
    • A /.'er with a [port scanner/cd burner/whatever] is okay, because he will use it for good, not evil.

      But government with a whatever is not okay, because it will use it for evil, not good?

      So you trust yourself, but not the government. Fine, the government trusts itself, and but you.
    • What's so bad with that?
      Control isn't bad itself.

      Um, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
  • by IainMH (176964) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:04AM (#2659101)
    Seeing as how he has already supplied the CIA with software, I bet it went to another 3-letter group

    Not AOL?!! They are the people we fear the most!
  • by wackysootroom (243310) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:04AM (#2659102)
    1. If Larry Ellison offered you a free copy of arguably the #1 database server (and the most expensive) on the market, would you turn him down?

    2. The article makes no mention of what kind of data will be stored in the database server.

    Even if there is no 'National ID card' information, Ellison saved our government lots of money by giving us expensive software. Lobbying the legislature, writing congress letters, etc. is up to us.

    IMHO, the government probably listened to his schpiel, said thanks, and used the software for something else besides the ID card.
    • Larry Ellison offers a free copy of oracle to everyone. It can be found on oracle's website [oracle.com].
    • But ooooooooooh its a database...and as we all know, databases are only used for bad reasons! Just think, they might arrest the wrong person! better to arrest no-one, and just hope there are no bad people around...
    • 1. If Larry Ellison offered you a free copy of arguably the #1 database server (and the most expensive) on the market, would you turn him down?

      But is it free? What about upgrades? Support costs? Machines to run it on? Administrators? etc.

      "Here is your brand new copy of Oracle 9i. Did I happen to mention that Oracle 10 will be released next week? Can I put you down for a copy? It's a bargain at only $40,000."
  • Microsoft could have "donated" their passport "technology" to the government, and we all know that could lead to very bad things. Damned be the day that my hotmail account is bound to a National ID Card!
  • by sllort (442574) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:10AM (#2659119) Homepage Journal
    One of the most popular uses of the Social Security Number is stalking your ex-spouse [ncadv.org]. Larry's database should make this... easier?

    Then there's the ACLU's stance [aclu.org]: There must be no national ID system -- either in law or in practice.

    But all of this means nothing, and preaching to the /. choir is pointless. There's only one number the politicians will look at. And it's this one [cnn.com].

    If you want to do something proactive, try to do something about that.
      • preaching to the /. choir is pointless. There's only one number the politicians will look at. And it's [opinion polls]

      You're being too simplistic. Other numbers that can effect their decision:

      • Number of $50 bills in the brown paper bag passed under the table in the diner.
      • Number of roofied cheerleaders in the back of the limo.
      • Number of useless idiot nephews who can be given PR jobs with a fat expense account and no job description within the bidder's company.

      This isn't meant to be funny. We have honest politicians, but not enough, and a system where 90% of career incumbents are re-elected doesn't exactly encourage honesty or integrity.

      I think we've already lost the national ID card argument. All we have to worry about now is how well the system is implemented, and how many false positives it will generate when despatching the MIBs to apprehend evil doers. Given that law enforcement in increasingly using SWAT tactics these days (whether they're trained in them or not) even for such dangerous criminals as computer crackers, I'd hope that whatever system we settle on actually works, especially if it's going to be used by all branches of government at all levels.

      If Sally Secretary is going to initiate a paramilitary action against Karl Kracker just by typing in his ID number, I'd far rather that there are safeguards in place to ensure that the goons actually go to Karl's house and not mine. In that respect, an Oracle system might be the least of a host of evils.

      Consider the alternative: who do you want to make go away today?

  • Question, we have the right to privacy, but do we also have the right to anonymity?

    I think it's too much fuss about the inevitable.

    Regards...
    • Yes. I have the right to make a purchase with cash. I don't have to use a credit card or check. I believe you can still purchase Postal Money Orders with cash and no id. And even though a clerk may ask to see my Drivers License to purchase liquour or tobbaco products, they don't record that information.

      But the question is does the government have a right to know who I am at its will, or only when there is a reasonable belief I have broken a law. It seems to me that the government is trying to make me identify myself even when there is no belief I have commmited a crime.


    • And for our next government policy: we all have a right to "Heads" but "Tails" will be outlawed.

  • by Gannoc (210256)
    Seeing as how he has already supplied the CIA with software, I bet it went to another 3-letter group.

    Like EFF? Or FSF?

    Please, we must not allow our emotions to take over, or we might start hating ALL groups of three letters, which would be a tragedy...

  • Responsibility (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tomcat666 (210775) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:15AM (#2659132) Homepage
    We've had it with people working in medicinal areas (they developed the Hippocratic oath to make sure only to help the people), and with scientists (remember Hiroshima?).

    It seems like programmers are in the focus now. Would you write software that will be used in military devices (to kill people)? To observe people and violate their privacy? How can you know what your software is used for?

    We should take care of what we are doing when we publish and/or write a piece of software.

    This also has some interesting aspects for open source licenses like the GPL. There's no part of the GPL forbidding the use of the licensed software for militaristic purposes (wrong?) or privacy intrusion (to stay on topic). Since most hackers are friendly people and the GPL reflects a big part of the hacker ethics, it should probably restrict the use of your software for the "wrong" purposes.

    On the other hand, if you're not as pacifistic and freedom-loving as I am, you might say that the GPL shouldn't restrict the use of software so much. But then I think programmers should consider NOT to release a program if it could be used in a bad way.

    Hackers are putting so much love and work and spare time into their projects that they are thinking about its possibilities anyway, so maybe the only danger here is commercial software, written only to earn money.
    • Check out ACM's Software Engineering Code of Ethics [acm.org]. It seems like a good starting point, and can perhaps be incorporated in the GPL.
    • if you think anyone does OSS out of love you're sadly mistaken. They do it to get fame and prestige in their society (the OSS community, i.e. Slashdot, k5). Very few people do anything for other people because they want to, and they've usually taken an oath to their God and believe they'll burn for eternity if they don't.
    • Well.. you are trying to apply a moral philosophy to programming that could be applied to anything else in this world. Should people invest in companies that engage in questionalbe practices? Should the shareholders of Microsoft be at fault because of MS's anti-comptetitive practices? What about those who invest in weapons companies. They should all be guilty as well?

      The GPL is about freedom of software. To restrict it's use is subjective. Is using it for weapons systems wrong? What if it's the only thing protecting you from some totalitarian regime trying to take over your country? Is it still wrong?

      Pacifism is great, but it ignores reality.
    • Re:Responsibility (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MrResistor (120588)
      I think this is a straw man arguement. You're blaming the technology for the uses it's being put to, and frankly it's inappropriate. Technology is nothing but a tool, like a hammer. You're essentially asking all hammer manufacturers to shut down because it's possible to kill someone with a hammer.

      Your arguement is certainly pacifist, but not freedom-loving at all. Censorship is the enemy of freedom, even if it is self imposed! The GPL is about Free-as-in-speech, and if you alter the license so that, for example, GPLed code can't be used in weapon systems, then it is no longer Free-as-in-speech. You are removing freedoms in order to impose your own pacifist morallity on others. That doesn't sound very freedom-loving to me. Feel free to write your own license for your code that prevents military use, but don't ask for such a clause to be added to a license like the GPL, it violates the basic principles on which that license is built.

      Personally, I would have no problems writing code specifically for weapons systems if I were being paid to do it, nor would I be bothered if code I wrote for some other purpose were used in a weapon system. The for pay requirement above is merely a reflection of my desire to be paid, and my recognition that the military-industrial complex has the capability to do that. Unfortunately a military is necessary in our world, and a modern military requires technological systems. Someone is going to get paid to create those systems, and it might as well be me.

      RDBs have many potential uses, none of which are destructive (unlike nuclear physics and medicine). Some of the potential uses are invasive, but does that mean the world should be deprived of this technology? Certainly not, especially considering the only difference between invasive and non-invasive RDBs are the people using them.

      • Well, it would be illegal to write controller code for a patent-lawyer-emulator-mecha-warrior robot named "Jack ValentEliza". Other than that though, you're basically right about the GPL and the weapons thing.
  • Who cares what database is used for this?

    The data is already available for anyone in at least three [slashdot.org] individual [slashdot.org] states [slashdot.org].

  • ...I bet it went to another 3-letter group.

    That can only mean the most terrifying, powerful, and secretive agency in the whole of the government... .

    .

    The I.R.S!!!

    Ahhhhhhhh!!!!

    With Oracle's powerful software they'll be able to haggle happles taxpayers over previously unimaginably complex, nuanced, obscure articles of tax code!

    Why couldn't the NSA just use it implement some sort of Big-Brother national ID card thing?!

    Dear god Ellison...have you no heart?!

    • > The I.R.S!!!

      As long as we're guessing, how about the INS? Lord knows those fucksticks could certainly use the help.

      And it'd be consistent with Ellison "[declining] to give further details, such as which agency or for what usage".

      At the INS, I'd bet the usage would be "Put it in the mailroom for six months. Have an agent take it from the mailroom and put it on the shelf sometime in spring of 2002. Have another agent wipe the dust off the box in 2004. Take the box off the shelf and try to install it on a 4.77 MHz PC/XT in 2007. (Side project: Install a CD-ROM for the PC/XT. Should be done by 2011.) When the installation program reports "not enough RAM" sometime in 2018, write a glowing report to Congress about the wonders of the ongoing INS modernization programme, and how, Real Soon Now, INS will finally be able to stop Bad Guys and illegal aliens from getting into (and staying in) our country, if it weren't for all those goddamn legal aliens we're still spending all our time trying to get rid of through interminably long delays in their paperwork."

      Slashdotters can moderate this as (+1, Funny). INS employees will probably moderate it as (+1, Informative).

  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig DOT hogger AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:25AM (#2659162) Journal
    Seeing as how he has already supplied the CIA with software, I bet it went to another 3-letter group.
    ...Where everyone looking at it is having fits of laughter having a look at the "security" features...
    • Where everyone looking at it is having fits of laughter having a look at the "security" features...

      You say that, but let me tell you, I don't think you could take over a Unix host if the SQL*Net port was the only one open to you. And I have never in my years of working with Oracle come across someone with a password on one schema being able to get at any other schemas that they hadn't been granted. Certainly the quality of Oracle's "security" is higher than that in almost every Unix.
  • by fhwang (90412) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:25AM (#2659163) Homepage
    In the story, Ellison is quoted as saying: "There is cooperation (among government agencies). But there's a lot of data fragmentation."

    Of course, one of the biggest reasons for the data fragmentation is that that intelligence agencies don't cooperate -- if anything, they're notorious for their turf wars. Ellison is downplaying the organizational battles in order to pitch his technical solution.

    One of the causes of the turf war is that the intelligence agencies are poorly defined and poorly monitored. Once an intelligence agency is created, it tends to have a life of its own. Case in point: The CIA was originally chartered to help the U.S. fight the Cold War, something it did with laughable incompetence at times. But when the Cold War ended -- an event which took the agency entirely by surprise -- nobody at the CIA thought "Since our job is done, let's tell Congress to shut us down so we can be unemployed." No, of course, they looked around for other threats to pitch to the White House. With terrorism, they seem to have found it.

    Except for the fact that much of the anti-terrorism work will be domestic, and that therefore it falls under the aegis of the FBI, instead. But can you imagine the CIA bosses, always anxious about Congressional funding and eager to get into the anti-terrorism spotlight, staying out of the fray? Forget about it.

    • There is still a lot of work work for the CIA. It's charter is to collect intel information from all foreign governemnts, including allies. And bin laden isn't exactly an American citizen and falls out of the FBI's jurisdiction.

      But you're excatly right about the life of it's own. I used to work for the DoD and they will think up of anything to keep their jobs alive. It could be the most useless army unit or agency, but they will find ways to say how indispensible they are to national security.
    • Not to mention the bumbling idiots over at the Interior Department. The Wallstreet Journal [wsj.com] is reporting this morning that an independent company was hired by the Justice Department to investigate the security risk in the Indian Accounting System. The one that is used to pay the Indians rents, royalties, etc. for the use of their land.

      They were able to hack the system undetected. No wonder Bruce Babbitt had to lie, we couldn't handle the truth that the Hundreds of Millions may have been stolen by hackers.
    • Another problem, as far as I understand it anyway, is that there is alot of overlap betwen the agencies. For example, the NSA overlaps alot with the CIA, both in their goals and how they achieve them. And the NSA ovrlaps in some areas (Satelite communications monitoring, etc) with the US Military. Not to mention how much the responsibilities of the various domestic agencies (FBI, US Marshals, local police) overlap.

    • In the story, Ellison is quoted as saying: "There is cooperation (among government agencies). But there's a lot of data fragmentation."

      It follows that Larry believes the answer is to consolodate all this data into one massive system.

      There's an expression "don't put all of your eggs in one basket". It applies well to this and any other situation where people say "there are too many competing ways of doing X". Sure, this "fragmentation" Larry abhors can be a pain in the ass sometimes. But I'd certainly rather have a little chaos here and there, than one massive central point of failure. Remember what happened to the centrally controlled economy of the former Soviet Union?
    • "And the only people we hate worse than the Romans... Are the fucking Judean People's Front!"

      BTW. "The Crook Factory", by Dan Simmons, is a very fun book to read about similar topics. In particular, it is a story about Ernest Hemingway's (real-life) spy ring in Cuba during WWII, and the infighting of the various US and German intelligence agencies during that time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sure, it may be a marketing gimmick, but in reality, what does this change? If the gov't wasn't planning on creating a national ID card system, getting a complete Oracle system isn't going to change their minds.

    On the other hand, if they *were* planning on creating a national ID card system, it's a pretty safe bet that they'd choose Oracle as a platform.

    So, other than Ellison making sure his name stays in the headlines (There's an entire industry that revolves around keeping people's names in the headlines, so this is nothing new), what's the harm here? This act alone is not going to create a national ID card system.
  • So it looks like all the movies made years ago are going to be true. The govt is going monitor every living soul in the US, and probably the world (sorry to those of you outside the country, but... it is the US). So with that in mind... I surrender. Give me my card and my new name. Give me my own personal observation satellite and spyware dental work. From what I've seen... they go easy on you if you just give in. So... are you listening my beloved republican govt? I give up... (sorry suckers... but I got dibs on this first... might as well be a subservient asskisser before it gets trendy)
  • I don't see why he bothered. Relational databases suck major buttocks. Model 204 is the workhorse database of choice for the United States Government.
  • Then the US Gov would'nt have to, (as one developer told me once) "...put up with all that Oracle crap." Dirty writing is cool.
  • You're telling me that the agency that focuses on the nation's electronic security didn't already have a version of one of the most-widely used databases in their labs? Maybe we should be worried.
  • by jeff13 (255285)
    Ha ha ha ha ha !!!

    I am Big Brother! Your profiles are mine! Your social numbers! Credit card! Who you voted for! All your international Echelon flagged phone calls! And your mother!

    Thanx Larry. :)
    00XX
  • Note that this is just Ellison at a customer conference, and nowhere did the article mention the government's opinion. I recently read (sorry, no link) that few in the government is taking this the least bit seriously, including Congress. Remember that it wasn't too long ago that some House members (a few Republicans) were advocating not filling out the 2000 census form or lying on it, despite it being required by the Constitution.

    In terms of cost, I would think the cost of the hardware is a pittance compared to the difficulties in organizing disparate agencies, each with their own data formats.

    • Mine says (In article 1, section 2)

      "The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."

      Where does it say that people are constitutionally required to fill out a census form? Perhaps I'm being too literal, but this seems to be directed at the Congress, not the people, on what they *have* to do.
  • I wake up and still in a haze I check /. to find a headline containing "Oracle" "Donates" and "Big Brother." So I assume that Oracle is donating software to help children's charities... only to be brought back into the cynical reality when I read the article and realize the Orwelian reference. Too bad
  • You honestly think that they would Oracle for data storage?

    These people practically invented the term! They already have the largest intelligence database in the world - and no, I'm not a crackpot conspiracy theorist (it says so on the nsa/gchq website).

    If you want to know more, read the great book "Body Of Secrets" by James Bamford.
  • by darrad (216734) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @10:34AM (#2659438) Homepage
    Do we really want any database that contains the kind of information we are talking about running on a piece of software developed by a corporate entity.

    I may be a Black Hellicopter KOOK here, but I am thinking back the the movie, "The Net"(Bad movie, good story)

    If the US Government sets up this database, running on software developed by any third party, then security will always be a problem. How many "Easter Egg" type bugs exist in most of today's software. What happens if one of the coders at Oracle was having a bad day, and added a backdoor to the database, and then publishes the path to it on the Internet?

    I don't pretend to have a solution to this, short of not doing anything, which is probably the best thing we can do. Knee-jerk reactions to the events of 9/11 will end up costing us more than the actual events.

    I think someone should propose to Ellison to have all of his personal data (credit card #'s, SSN, financial statements, "real" income, not what is reported to the IRS)stored in an Oracle database that is web-enabled. That will tell us all we need to know.

    Scary stuff....
    • A country which has a president who wants to install secret military tribunals shouldn't be worrying about if Oracle is able to access data inside governmental databases, but should be worrying about what the difference between the USA WITH secret tribunals and a 3rd world country with a dictator and secret tribunals really is.
  • by henle (18160)

    Did anybody else reading the Slashdot headline for this story think it was about The Insidious Big Brother Database (BBDB) [sourceforge.net]?

    • I did. I'm the other BBDB user who reads Slashdot. But it integrates so damn well with Emacs Gnus, that I'll never switch to something else.
  • by jeffy124 (453342) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @11:00AM (#2659540) Homepage Journal
    policy in all us govt agencies, particularly those dealing with intelligence and security is to _not_ accept donations from vendors, including demoware from tech conferences. Part of this is security interests but also integrity. The gov't doesnt want vendors freely supplying software in hopes they would buy more licenses.

    so given that, whenever ellison's donation arrives at whatever agency he donated them to, they'll probably tell ellison "thanks, but no thanks" and toss the box in the trashcan.
  • more of a policy:

    Office of Home Security's Highly Invasive Technology

    aka. OH SHIT

  • A Big Brother database? Neat. I'm all for it, as long they don't let that guy Will win again. He's evil!
  • by mindstrm (20013) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @11:38AM (#2659731)
    I mean seriously.. if the price of the Oracle software is what stands in the way of the powers that be rolling out such a system, they have a serious problem already.

    I also don't see the big controversy. The government already HAS huge databases, analyzed by supercomputers, to figure out things like taxes, and whatnot.. what's another database? The issue is how things are used, not that they exist.
    • I agree with you.

      And I find it very disappointing that certain Slashdot folks automatically jump to conclusions and post stories with slanted headlines. It does not exactly help Slashdot's credibility as a news source to assume the worst automatically in every instance.

      It seems that "U.S. Government" + "Database" automatically equals "Big Brother." This makes about as much sense as saying "kid" + "representation of a gun" = "maniacal school killer." A database is a tool, and many of them are used by the government already for ordinary, beneficial purposes, ranging from small mailing lists on departmental computers to the drivers's license system that ensures that only people who know how to drive well enough not to be a hazard on the road are driving. Sure, there are abuses, but in this case we don't even know what the software is going to be used for. It seems a bit premature to rant about "big brother" to me.

      Would it really hurt to post the same story under a more neutral headline and avoid the spectacle of yellow journalism?
  • by Hobart (32767) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @11:49AM (#2659773) Homepage Journal

    Look up Oracle's history. They produced the first ever commercial relational database -- under contract to the CIA for a project called Oracle that got cancelled. Then they decided to market it, and took the name Oracle.

    In fact, Larry Ellison was fired from Oracle in his early years there. :)

  • Oracle or SQL (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fathed (32870)
    What would happen if Microsoft did this today?

    Shouldn't we be fair, has the government done research to find out which database software would best fit their requirements?
  • Just like printers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ToasterTester (95180)
    Give the database to the goverment, then make big bucks on development tools, support, and maintenance contracts.
  • I work for a branch of the government (I don't wish to disclose which one) and we recently purchased Oracle 9i products. All I can say is that I hope the unnamed gov't department has better luck with it than we've had.

    So far the website initiative we are developing using Oracle Portal has been one disappointment after another. While I understand the 9i database software is working fine, other components of the package have simply fallen flat on its face, particularly a serious compatibility issue with Solaris servers.

    The way I see it, the government is probably, for once, getting what it's paying for. Nothing.

  • I'm betting that while the software is "free", there's probably some condition that says Oracle Consulting will have to do the work.

    As everybody in the Oracle Financials world knows, buying Financials is only a small percentage of it's cost. Just wait until you see how much it costs to get it installed and configured!

    Larry is a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them.
  • If big brother depends on Oracle to retrieve and consolidate your data, rest assured your privacy is safe...

    :)
  • Oracle.Net? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Peteresch (136753)
    Does anyone know if Elison & Gates have been talking to each other? I can just see it...

    Oracle convinces Gov to use national ID card

    Microsoft signs deal to merge Oracle database with Passport and .Net services

    Oracle controls the largest personal information collection ever.

    Microsoft convinces Government that Windows is required on all computers to keep information confidential

    Government forbids the use of any other OS

    Of course some [nationalreview.com] see them as opposites.


    ... Gates never lobbied for a law requiring that every person in the United States be forced to use Internet Explorer.

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