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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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  • Building (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dbitter1 (411864) <slashdot&carnivores-r,us> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:58AM (#2659083)
    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.
  • by bani (467531) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:58AM (#2659086)
    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?"
  • Umm... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by powerlinekid (442532) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:59AM (#2659088)
    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.
  • by bani (467531) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:02AM (#2659097)
    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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:31AM (#2659177)
    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.
  • by oyenstikker (536040) <slashdot @ s b yrne.org> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:39AM (#2659200) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by alen (225700) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:40AM (#2659204)
    Do you seriously think he is going to recommend NT and an easy future migration to SQL Server? Some people in the government already don't know anything except for microsoft and why make it worse?
  • 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....
  • by Ivan Raikov (521143) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @10:54AM (#2659515) Homepage
    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 wirefarm (18470) <jim@NoSPAm.mmdc.net> 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
  • 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.
  • Oracle or SQL (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fathed (32870) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @12:11PM (#2659880)
    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) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @12:49PM (#2660104)
    Give the database to the goverment, then make big bucks on development tools, support, and maintenance contracts.
  • by Robotech_Master (14247) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @02:14PM (#2660674) Homepage Journal
    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?
  • Re:Responsibility (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrResistor (120588) <peterahoff&gmail,com> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @02:52PM (#2660890) Homepage
    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.

  • by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @03:19PM (#2661022) Homepage
    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.

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