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U.S. Considers Microsoft Passport as National ID 764

Posted by michael
from the baaaaad-ideas dept.
An anonymous submitter writes: "Ladies and gents, the endtimes have begun. The Seattle Times is reporting that Mark Forman, associate director of information technology at the White House (or 'America's CIO', as he bills himself) has said the feds are considering the use of Microsoft's Passport technology to ID every citizen and every business seeking access to government services online. This is about as scary as it gets." To be fair, it looks very preliminary. Read the article. So many companies have tried to assist the government in providing services over the Net... but I guess if your lobbyists are good enough, you can be heard at the top.
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U.S. Considers Microsoft Passport as National ID

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  • That's it! (Score:2, Funny)

    by techstar25 (556988)
    I'm moving to Canada. Who's with me?
    • Re:That's it! (Score:3, Informative)

      by winse (39597)
      not me. I'd rather fight the good fight here than freeze the rest of my life. Several loud people can arrange the future for the silent millions.
  • by sphealey (2855) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:38AM (#3365434)
    If this bothers you (and to me it is VERY disturbing), please put pen to paper and write your Congresspersons expressing in firm, polite language why you oppose this idea. Please.

    sPh

    • by misfit13b (572861) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:44AM (#3365508)
      Click here [house.gov] for contact info.
    • by blankmange (571591) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:46AM (#3365528)
      Or email them. Or fax them, but yes - do something!!!! Don't just sit around and post you gripes here and there --- contact your representatives!!!!
      • by revscat (35618) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:25PM (#3365865) Journal

        It's fairly well known now that email is mostly ignored by Congresscritters. They can't tell for sure if the email is coming from one of their constituents, it's too easy to do, and they get too many of them. Faxes are better, stamped snail mail is best.

        Actually cold hard cash is best, but we're talking above the table methods here.

      • > Don't just sit around and post you gripes here and there --- contact your representatives!!!!

        I'm not a US citizen (or resident). I'd like to sit around pointing and laughing at how stupid the US government is being, but since our goverment is probably stupid enough to follow your example with added cockups of its own, I'm going to sit around and gripe instead....
    • how about some pointers? i don't know about the rest of us here, but i've never written to a representative. what's the best way to get their attention? are there any good points i should be making in this letter?
      • by daviddennis (10926) <david@amazing.com> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:34PM (#3365923) Homepage
        From what I've heard ...
        • Be civil. Nobody likes to hear flaming, and your representative will almost certainly toss flames in the trash.

        • Be brief. These are busy people you're writing to. Heck, even the person hired to read your letter is a busy person, since he gets whole sacks of these things.

        • Don't use someone else's words. It's easy to rely on others to write letters for you. But the more identical letters they receive, the more likely it is that they'll feel this is an organized lobbying campaign instead of something from the grass roots. You want people to think your letter is genuine, so proceed accordingly. A relatively small number of sincere, well-written, DISTINCT letters are going to be as effective as hundreds of identical screeds.

        • Proofread. This should go without saying, but, judging by what I see on Slashdot, many of us have lost the habit.

        • Write a paper letter. They know how easy it is to bat out an email, so they don't give them much weight. In any event, nobody has time to wade through the millions of emails they get, so they sit unread.

        • You may even want to hand write it instead of using a computer. That will make it more of a novelty, and it will be obvious you are /really/ willing to put in an effort. Perhaps "I have to write in longhand so Microsoft's goons won't get me if I do it in Word their spies in Redmond will get it." Okay, that was a joke, but you get the idea.

        For this issue specifically, it might be worth checking out how controversial Microsoft Government has been elsewhere. If you want an idea of what this is going to look like, check out this article in The Register (UK) [theregister.co.uk]. You may also want to do a few more searches over there since there's lots of meaty material.

        Hope that helps.

        D

    • by FortKnox (169099) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:58AM (#3365650) Homepage Journal
      When doing so make sure you put your address in your signature (and make sure its YOUR rep)! That ensures them that you are one of their constituents, not just a random person somewhere in america.

      Quickest way to get their attention is for them to know that they are YOUR representative!
    • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:04PM (#3365700) Homepage Journal
      Dear Representative {Insert Their Name Here},

      Thank you for taking your valuable time away from being wined, dined and brainwashed by lobbyists to read this letter. I strongly oppose the U.S. Federal Government setting precedent in support of a known and guilty monopolist. Please insist upon an Open Standard, arrived at by a broad spectrum of those with strong experience in the areas of Preservation of Individual Privacy and Integrity & Security of Data. Do not allow this perceived opportunity to lock the people of the United States of America into a closed standard which has proven non-secure in the past and the goals of the provider so transparent.

      Regards, {Insert Your Name Here}

    • Do you oppose a national ID (which really isn't what this is)?

      Do you oppose the govenment making private information, such as tax info available to people through the internet?

      Do you oppose the use of a outside (non-government) authentication system?

      Do you oppose an authentication system which doesn't have a proven track record of good security and prompt effective responses to security issues?

      Do you oppose Microsoft being the provider of the system.

      Or all of the above?

      Try not to be overly vague in what you write to your Congressmen. They often have little grasp of technical issues, and likley get vague complaints about just about everything the government does. You don't want to confuse them with too much detail, but you need to tell them what you don't like, and why. Alternate solutions might even be helpful.
  • Now I can't imagine being unable to reenter the country because the Passport servers were down again. Grrrreat.
  • Worst Idea Ever (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hamshrew (20248) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:39AM (#3365453) Homepage

    So they're going to trust the information of every single citizen to a corporation that has a known criminal track record? That's intelligent. What next, find a crack dealer to handle international trade?

    Yes, I realize the offenses are different... but this is still stupid. It federally mandates giving Microsoft business. Well, not really... if an alternate ID is available, they should accept that.

  • This should not be about using Passport to grant access to public services, it's about having a mechanism to access public services.

    I'm a UK citizen, and we live under the shadow of the beast here with the UK government gateway being developed by/with Microsoft, so I have sympathy.

    However we will need to access government services online, and we need to do it somehow.

    I'm not suggesting we use Passport (christ no!), but we will need to use something!
    • My bank allows my to go to an ATM and draw up to UK£250 based on the fact I type in a 4 didgit code.

      Every person bourn, or Leagally entering the UK to work is given an NI number that is unique.

      The govt. issuses plastic NI cards with a magnetic strip on them.

      I can rember my NI number and my bank PIN.

      Can't we use this info. and tec. to access govt web sites.
  • by nicedream (4923)
    Hopefully they won't forget to renew the domain name [doublewide.net].
  • by dryueh (531302) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:40AM (#3365466)
    The White House is instead pursuing an "e-identification" initiative, an effort to develop ways to authenticate people and businesses online who already have government identification numbers such as Social Security, business-registration and employer-identification numbers.

    Of course, the scariest part about all this is that anyone right now can get a MS passport. If something like this was adopted, referencing the above paragraph from the article, then you'd likely have to supply MS with *legitimate* information before being granted a passport. I dunno...something doesn't sit right in my mind when I think about giving my real SSN and/or other sensitive data to Microsoft (or anyone online, for that matter).

    The article does say that it's thinking of using MS technology, not MS itself, in creating a passport such as this. But once the gov't requires such info for a legit e-passport, do you think that corporations would follow suit? Would the whole online identity issue become suddenly more legal and legitimate?

    • [quote]
      But the company may ultimately decide it's not worthwhile to boost the service from a tool of convenience for consumers to a verification service relied upon by businesses and government.

      "Once you start vouching for identity, that makes you liable for fraud, that makes you liable for identity theft," Litan said.
      [/quote]

      A company with loads of cash, that's already a high-profile target for crackers, might not want the inevitable stream of lawsuits. If they did have liability exposure, you might see a spectacular concern for security.

      Unless of course they demanded legislation preventing suits against them for doing government work. There's already a "government contractor defense".
  • Canada, here I come!! I'm only 50 miles or so from Canada already, might as well just migrate that direction and stay.

    Welcome to the United State of Microsoft. (Or maybe President Bill prefers the Microsoft States of America).

  • by cheesyfru (99893) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:41AM (#3365470) Homepage
    You'll need to update Microsoft and have them reset your passport everytime you get a haircut..
  • Forman, who is overseeing the government's purchases of $100 billion worth of technology this year and next, was a featured speaker at the Microsoft Government Leaders Conference in Seattle this week.

    So, how do we get this guy out of public office? This is sickening. The government pursues them for monopolistic practices, and then we still this this gross conflict of interest arising..
  • by AugstWest (79042) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:42AM (#3365484)
    Shouldn't the fact that the US government is still suing Microsoft weigh in, at least a little bit, on the choice of Microsoft for handling the national IDs?
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:43AM (#3365495) Homepage
    Canada?
    New Zealand?
    Iceland?
    The Netherlands?

    Microsoft: Where do you want to go^H^H flee today?
  • I guess that this will be the last year that I pay taxes online.

    You know, I've known lots of people who have said, "If so-and-so gets elected, I've moving to another country." Well, so-and-so *did* get elected, and they are still here. But if the government adopts a privately-owned system as a national ID, I *will* be moving elsewhere.

  • by sniepre (517796)
    So how does this work now?

    Does the passport == hotmail address? or msn email?

    Does it become a legal address?

    I can just see it now... one passport is assigned to each U.S. citizen, to provide a single email address through microsoft that not only will have possibly one's bills, and tax information, and any normal legal correspondance but also a single point of spam with very poor filtering options.

    I'd love to see how they implement it... Hotmail?

    "We're sorry your inbox is full (4,231 messages) Please upgrade to MS Premium E-Mail service"

    ... check check check ...

    "1,242 messages filtered into 'Junk Mail' folder"

    ... click click ...

    'Oh my, its still all spam!'

    ... click click click click ... click click ...

    ...

    you get my point....
  • So, now I have to change my name to MyName234927545794_2002@hotmail.com :D ?
  • by YouAreFatMan (470882) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:45AM (#3365519) Homepage
    Let's get beyond the FUD here. Passport is being considered as a means to authenticate users of US government services online. Nothing more. This is a far cry from a "national ID," which implies that citizens are required to have it. When was the last time you used US government services online? If the government wants to select Microsoft as a vendor for a particular service, I may think it's a bad business decision, but I don't think I can claim my rights are being violated.
    • by laetus (45131) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:03PM (#3365688)
      And you can (online) in my state and locality:

      * pay local traffic tickets,
      * renew driver's licenses,
      * renew vehicle registrations,
      * pay property taxes,
      etc.

      Once a federal online ID becomes pervasive, it'll be used for every state and local online transaction also, just like SSN's filtered down to the state and local levels. And personally, I don't want M$ having all that info.
  • by Spackler (223562)
    I vote that the government should mandate the use of our Slash IDs as our government mark of the beast!

    The president could have the ID: CmndrTaco

    Vice president ID: Hemos

    Homeless people: Anonymous Coward

    Blackout losers: -2 (can't be seen)

    Karma Whores: Spackler

    This will be great!
  • Read. The. Article (Score:4, Informative)

    by Karen_Frito (91720) <Frito_KAL@yah o o . c om> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:47AM (#3365533) Homepage
    I swear to -god- my five year old has better reading comprension than some of you people.

    The article mentions that is is for online services three times.

    Quotes, with revelant words bolded for those of you who haven't finished 5th grade English yet.

    "Microsoft's Passport is being considered as a way to authenticate users of the Web sites, said Mark Forman, associate director of information technology at the White House."

    "The White House is instead pursuing an "e-identification" initiative, an effort to develop ways to authenticate people and businesses online who already have government identification numbers such as Social Security, business-registration and employer-identification numbers. "

    "At the government-leaders conference, attended by representatives of 75 countries, Microsoft presented a blueprint for its "e-government" strategy that suggests they use Passport to verify the identity of visitors to their Web sites. It also suggested that its bCentral business Web site could be used to process business tax payments and that citizens could use its MSN Web site to handle address changes and voter registration"

    ---

    Yes, its an amazingly laughable idea -- but its not the Big Brother in cahoots with Evil Bill Gates to steal all our privacy that the orignal poster makes it out to be.
    • by sphealey (2855) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:53AM (#3365599)
      I swear to -god- my five year old has better reading comprension than some of you people.

      The article mentions that is is for online services three times.
      Problem is, once an entity reaches a certain size, it is required to deal with the federal gov't electronically. For example, employers of more than 200 people must file all their tax information electronically. They also must verify that their employees are eligible to work in the US.

      It is not a long step (in fact, it is a very very short step) from there to having employers say to you "Ready to start work? Sure - just step up to that HR kiosk, fire up Internet Explorer(tm), and use your Federal Passport(tm) to authenticate who you are.". What? No Microsoft Passport(tm)? Sorry - no paycheck for you. And so on for other "optional" services that allow you to do optional things such as eat.

      sPh

      • And very simply - the accounting firms that already do the taxes for large businesses get Passport accounts, and THEY deal with it, and not the business itself.

        Additionally, again -- the government is considering it, not sure-fire definitly using it.

        Man, moutains out of molehills.
      • by flatrock (79357)
        Problem is, once an entity reaches a certain size, it is required to deal with the federal gov't electronically.

        Yes they are, and they currently have ways of being authenticated. This would just be changing the method in which the government determines those companies are who they say they are.

        It is not a long step (in fact, it is a very very short step) from there to having employers say to you "Ready to start work? Sure - just step up to that HR kiosk, fire up Internet Explorer(tm), and use your Federal Passport(tm) to authenticate who you are.".

        Actually this is a very huge step. Why would your employer want to use passport to authenticate who you are? Passport just requires a password. The current method of a Social Security number and a valid drivers license works much better.

        The government is trying to make more information available to it's citizens over the web. They have a responsibility to make sure they aren't giving that information out to the wrong people. Therefore they need a system to authenticate users of the system. This is not the same as requiring one ID for all online transactions, that can be used to track everything you do. You can have multiple MS passports. I have two myself. One I need to access some stuff for work, and it is based on my work email. I use it for nothing but work. My other passport is for Asheron's call. I use that passport only for Asheron's call.

        There is a lot of information that the govenment keeps that we as citizens should have easy access to. Much of that information should only go to the person it's about, such as tax or social security info. They need some way to authenticate users. In my opinion, the current form of MS Passport isn't a good solution. THe servers go down, and there are too many serious security flaws. Microsoft claims that they are addressing these problems, and expect to have a rewritten version available next year. I'll believe that when I see it.

        Authentication is a real issue that the government many, many other online entities face. There are many good reasons not to like passport, but writing your congressmen that passport is the evil spawn of Microsoft isn't going to be that convincing. It still leaves the govenment with the same problem. The govenment is is going to solve the authentication problem, if you don't like MS Passport, suggest a better solution.

        Remember that people got really upset about Social Security numbers. They claimed they were the mark of the beast. We still ended up with SS#s. If you don't like the proposed solution, lobby for a different solution.
    • Nobody's saying that they want to do e-voting based on Passport, yet, but the services offered/required to use the service will inevitably grow.

      And never underestimate the damage that even small changes can do. Change someone's address right before an election and there's a good chance you've disenfranchised them (think Florida). Or another change and you have full participation from the precincts located in the Shady Acres Memorial Park. Use the handy "write your Representative" feature and you can create another bogus grass-root support for protecting Microsoft's right to innovate.

      If there's a need for such user authentication, and I think it's worth considering, then it should be handled by exactly one of two organizations. Either the US Postal Service, or the individual states existing voter registration service. Probably the USPS because resident aliens can still use government services even if they can't vote.

    • Thank God somebody else reads the article.

      There's also lots implied meanings in the article that people seem to be taking at extreme literal.

      For example, the Government is considering using Passport Technology. That's a gigantic difference from using Passport itself.

      Microsoft would like to see itself as the provider of these services through its existing applications. Considering the openness of these services, do you really think the government would consider a straight-foward integration? No; I can guarantee every single reader on this board that even IF a deal should develop, it will consist of Microsoft building the government its own service. Perhaps this new service will be based upon the technology, but it's highly doubtful that it'll be based upon the existing service.

      In short -- Microsoft Passport does not, and would not equal U.S. Passport; despite what nearly every single foaming-at-the-mouth Slashdot reader thinks, and what Microsoft would like to see.
    • "The White House is instead pursuing an "e-identification" initiative, an effort to develop ways to authenticate people and businesses online who already have government identification numbers such as Social Security, business-registration and employer-identification numbers."

      In case you haven't noticed, we all have social security numbers.

      "suggests they use Passport to verify the identity of visitors to their Web sites."

      ... and access to our government should be restricted because...?
  • So I can't read the article - the Seattle site seems to be already slashdotted...

    But what exactly is going on here? I already see people worrying and having heart palpitations. The story submission says "Microsoft Passport technology" not Microsoft Passport.

    In priniciple this just means that Goverment is going to start tracking people as they access goverment online services... kinda like they already do using our Social Security numbers in meat-space - and/or cookies set by goverment servers in cyber-space. (I think it would be foolishly naive to imagine that people aren't already being tracked.)

    This is just a logical extension of what is already going on.

    Good questions to ask: "Can a user opt out?" "What about users from other countries and locales?" "What is going to be done with the info?".

    Who was it who said "Privacy is dead already - all we have anymore is obscurity." (Or something like that.) Obviously this is the direction we've been heading for quite sometime. Now we see clearly - before we saw through a glass darkly...
  • Solution? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rmcgehee (142010)
    While Microsoft is not the answer, the open-source community should seriously think of another solution to a national e-ID problem. It's easy to bitch about Microsoft if you don't have a better idea.

    The community would be well served to either design and endorse an open-source passport system, or alternatively design another means of identification in our hyper-paranoid electronic universe. Once we have done that, then we can seriously fight to keep our internet passport free!
  • But the company [Microsoft] may ultimately decide it's not worthwhile to boost the service from a tool of convenience for consumers to a verification service relied upon by businesses and government. Company name added for clarity.

    Please God, we can only hope that they do not use this service. One would hope that micorosoft knows when they are out of there leauge. Having passport be the primary source of government identification online would be horrible.

    If anything were to be done on this scale, it would need to be a new system, (it could be based on an existing standards compilant one) it would need to be regulated, and tightly controlled. Passport is none of these. How many hotmail accounts can you think of that are fake, fake name, fake address. This would be a mess.

    And yes, I am purposely staying out of the microsoft will steal your info and use it against you business :)

  • So microsoft has flogged the hated UK passport/gateway system to the USA, well
    The Register has a far better
    Write up [theregister.co.uk] then I could ever do.
  • Is this the same government that is suing them for being manipulative, controlling and illegially imposing restrictions on their customers? The irony never ends.
  • so, instead... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by walong (569059) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:53AM (#3365605)
    So, what are they supposed to use, a really big passwd file? OpenLDAP? Novell NDS? A big Oracle database? Why should we even care what the technology is, as long as it works?

    But, the idea that you'll need to register in order to read government documents, now THAT is interesting, and somewhat troubling. But I couldn't care less what technology they use.

    Unfortunately, all the Microsoft-hating government pawns around here seem to have missed the real point of the article.
  • How about some balance here guys? This is a preliminary study. Granted, none of us real people (i.e. citizens) want the gov't in bed with MS, want MS to be in control of gov't data, or want the gov't to have any more info on us than absolutely necessary, but this is just an avenue they are exploring.... and why is this putz "America's CIO" anyway? How did this happen??? About the same time Gore 'invented' the internet??? Speak out on this NOW and maybe it will die a quick death....
  • It then became clear to me, that come the apocalypse, the mark of the beast would be Alice 32367@hotmail.com and Bob8217@msn.com.

  • Some information (Score:3, Informative)

    by LordNimon (85072) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:54AM (#3365615)
    Mark Forman is the "Associate Director for Information Technology and E-Government" at the Office of Management and Budget [whitehouse.gov]. There's a press release [whitehouse.gov] announcing his appointment. His boss is apparently Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. Could someone confirm that for me? I haven't been able to find an address, but Mr. Forman's phone number is 202-395-1148.

    If you're going to write, you should write Mr. Forman and his boss, in addition to your Congresscritters. Be sure to mention that by requiring Passport, the government is effectively forcing its citizens to use Microsoft's technology in order to access the public information. What happens if MS decides to start charging for Passport use? Will citizens then have to pay Microsoft to access public information? This is especially disturbing considering that the government is currently in ligitation against MS. I think part of the problem is that some government departments think it doesn't matter if some OTHER government department is in ligitation with MS. Make sure the people you write understand that you don't make that distinction. Try to equate MS with Enron, by asking if they would be so quick to adopt any of Enron products. After all, both companies used donations to affect policy, both companies have broken the law, and both companies are under investigation by the DOJ.

  • by Ubi_NL (313657)
    Article
    After the Sept. 11 attacks, some politicians and business leaders have called for a national identification card, but Forman said that's not in the works. "We don't have any plans for a national ID card," he said.

    translate:
    If we would have used MS software the world would have been a safe place

    I should have put some witty comment here but this whole story is just too stupid. Aren't I glad I'm not an american. (although, according to Passport I am, and 108 years old. Living in Beverly Hills. Brilliant)
  • by ahfoo (223186) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:58AM (#3365649) Journal
    Because it would be a government publication and government publications cannot be copyrighted. Isn't that the case? Perhaps it you wouldn't call that open souce. But wouldn't it have to be openly documented and copyright free?
  • Opt out? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Windcatcher (566458)
    You know, I'm getting really tired of EVERY FREAKING WEBSITE UNDER THE SUN wanting my personal information. Not just government web sites, but just about everything else nowadays.

    - Want news? Tell us who you are so we can send you spam.

    - Want to try a free demo? Tell us who you are so we can send you spam.

    - Want to buy our product? It only costs $XXX.XX but you have to give us your personal information if you want it to be activated.

    Blah, blah, blah. How about a web site that links to other web sites in various categories that DO NOT demand personal information (including email)? And a "hall of shame" of sites and products (or vendors) to avoid.

    - The IRS can force me to get a MS Passport only when they outlaw PAPER.

    Cheers,

    Wind
  • It's good this thing is just in the negociation stage.

    • Oracle/CA: US$ 95,000,000.
    • MS-US-ID: US$ 900,000,000+
      (Not bad for a company under investigation!).
    • George W. Bush and John Ashcroft, realizing their MS-Passport IDs have been r00ted by a 13-year old? Priceless!! =)


    Somebody hack Passport, quick! Before this madness becomes reality and before "ID theft" takes on a whole new kind of meaning.

    Even then, there is a sardonic part of me that relishes in possibility #3 above... =)
  • by dpilot (134227) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:00PM (#3365664) Homepage Journal
    Nationalistic US crackers today announced that they had done the impossible - by revoking the PassPort account of Osama bin Laden, recently issued by the INS. An unnamed inside source was quoted as saying, "I didn't know there was ANY way to revoke a passport account. I wish I could use this technique to get rid of the extra accounts I get with every Microsoft purchase. But maybe not, after all my extra votes help on election day."
  • by FurryFeet (562847) <joudanx.yahoo@com> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:00PM (#3365668)
    Washington, D.C. (AP).- In a surprising turn of events, Americans have elected Bill Gates as President of the United States.
    After a recount of all votes, Gates received 89 percent of all votes, leaving oponents Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Hanks with 3 and 2 percent each.
    "It's hardly a surprise", said Steve Ballmer, campaign manager for Gates, "Bill has showed great leadership skills and built the greatest company in American history".
    Ballmer then made a turnaround in his position about the infamous "Mother's Day documents", and admitted "there might be some truth to them".
    The documents were published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an underground group that has been described as the political arm of hackers and ciberterrorists, and wer purported to have been obtained from Microsoft's internal servers. Gates and Ballmer denounced them as a fabrication.
    "I guess we can tell you the truth now", said Ballmer, after Gates' voctory was official, "there might be something there".
    The documents include a series of emails in which Gates, Ballmer and Microsoft's VP of legal affairs, John Ashcroft, discuss several courses of action in they won the election. Among them were: Change the countrys name to Microsoft States of América, change Gates's title from President to Chief Architect of Everything, and outlaw the use of any software not certified as "secure" by Microsoft Corp.
    Critics have pointed to the posibility of electoral fraud, but the governmente has refuted the posibility.
    "It's ridiculous. Preposterous", said a spokesman from the Electronics Elections Office. "We used Windows CE doubleplussecure 2018 for the polls machines, and Microsoft XXP Security-Above-All Server for the counting. These are the most secure systems in the world, and they're incapable of errors".
    After being questioned on the possibility of a bug in the system, the spokesman refused to answer, pointing out that the recently passed Corporations Antidefamation Act expresely prohibits the discussion of any possible flaws in software products, lest they be used for ciberterrorism purposes.
  • ... to see Bruce Schneier's take on this.

    I've never seen his face turn puple, but this'll do it for sure.

  • by wizkid (13692)

    At least it won't with Microsoft's technology. I can't say that I like the idea. Perennially it could have some benefits, but the possibility of having your ID stolen, having the database stolen, etc and the privacy concerns will kill it. Also, if they did this with $M technology, I wouldn't allow my ID to be placed in it, and I wouldn't use it. The government isn't stupid enough to do this. Yes, the government is stupid, but not this stupid. To many politicians would get roasted, so it will not happen.
  • Things have got to come to a head. Eventually the government is going to start passing laws that make people finally stand up and just say no.
  • I hate to say this (Score:2, Insightful)

    by twocents (310492)
    , and whether or not the idea is good to begin with aside, but this is something that the Government should make on their own. If this ever happens, they need to hire programmers and have their own development group for this. This type of information should never be outsourced, especially to a controlling interest in our government's financials. Heck, I would feel uncomfortable if Linus was asked to take part in it (-:

  • But only because the very discussion of the idea causes Ellison and McNealy to fall to the ground writhing with convulsions. :)

  • What, you mean this isn't an All Fools' Day joke?

    Glad not to be an American at the moment :)

  • I guess it will be since that's the only browser I can consistantly make work with Passport.
  • Maybe it's a good idea. In creating this single gov't-wide authentication system the gov't would in effect be creating a new monopoly. So, you want to get a company that has a lot of experience with monopolies, right? Nothing like the voice of experience.

    </evil>
  • Good job! (Score:5, Funny)

    by CaptainPhong (83963) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:15PM (#3365800) Homepage
    Gee, that sounds like the perfect way to punish someone who abuses their Monopoly power - give them a big contract!
  • I want to be able to log on to a website without having to register over and over again. As a consumer I'd have loved it. On the other hand, I don't see why would corporations use Passport. Oh well it was a nice idea. Of course I don't see why the government should use it.

    I'd like to be able to use my MS passport on websites like Slashdot, arstechnica, planetunreal, porn sites, etc. but for government websites, it's another story.
    1. Go here [usps.com] and get your ZIP+4 code.
    2. Go here [house.gov] and identify your Congressperson.
    3. When you click on the "Contact My Representative" button, you will be taken to a form. Ignore it. Instead, click on the link for your Representative and go to their homepage. Hopefully, they will have contact information someplace where you can find it. Copy it into your favorite word-processor.
    4. Go here [senate.gov] and identify your Senators. Again, we hope that they make it easy to find their contact information.
    5. If you are thinking ahead, save three "empty" letters, addressed to each of the above. This will save time the next time you need to write.
    6. Use your word processor to write an essay explaining your position. Be verbose. Copy this into each of the three letters you prepared above.
    7. If you found any fax numbers (and your computer can print-to-fax!) send copies of your letter that way. Otherwise, print it out and send it by regular mail.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:34PM (#3365926) Homepage

    OK, let's assume that we do want access to government services online. Taxation, benefits, voting even. I want that. That's going to require fairly robust identity validation. Note: fairly. Right now, it's absolutely trivial to scam the benefits system, or to steal someone else's vote if you really care enough to do it. An online solution only needs to be as good as the ones we've already got, which (let's face it) aren't that great.

    Further, while I'm as cynical as the next guy (if the next guy is a bitter, twisted conspiracy freak), I really doubt if any company is going to be able to buy this contract without providing a genuine solution, and most importantly, a credible promise of long term support. Not the best solution, or the cheapest solution, but a reliable solution.

    So, who does that leave? Oracle, most likely. Microsoft are actually the wild card outsiders. IBM, maybe. Sun at a stretch.

    Can you think of anyone else? Note that we're not talking about a development house, we're talking about a solution provider with a track record (even if it's a criminal track record) and thousands of techies available to patch and nurse the system for years ahead.

    If we want the online services (and I do), we're going to have to accept that it will be a big Dark Side company that's running them.

    So I suggest that in this case you don't go off at half cock writing to your elected representatives (I use both words loosely) demanding that Microsoft not be given this contract. At least not unless you can suggest a credible alternative. Perhaps the most productive thing you can do is to try and sell her on championing legislation to ensure transparency and openness in the running of the system, and most importantly, ensure that it's universally accessible, that the information is actually held in confidence, and that it's not mandatory.

    I'm tempted to suggest that it follow the pattern of recent bill and be called the "Enduring Patriotic Freedom of Just Federal Freenessness Bill", that would be reverting to cynical type. So I won't. ;-)

  • Goodbye America (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Martin Spamer (244245) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:42PM (#3366010) Homepage Journal

    Goodbye America, It's been nice knowing you.

    I cannot help drawing parrallels between this and the National Socialists, in German using IBM equipment used to manage the census, in the runup to the final solution during WW2.

    The direction the US is moving is starting to get really scary from the outside.

  • by Cally (10873) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @12:45PM (#3366042) Homepage
    Here in the UK the Blair government,in a fit of eStupidity (before the dotcom crash) decided to Make It So any interaction with the gvernment can be done online.Of course, as well as being Dubya's poodle, Blair & Co are still acting like they're terified Daily Mail readers (fascist middle class women, you know the sort) well think they're the same as "Old Labour" -- the socialist party which won elections several times since the war, introduced the NHS, nationalised lots of stuff, raised taxes a lot and generally perceived as "business unfriendly".They try to fend off these suspicions by... being MORE corrupt and "businessmen friendly" than any government in living memory. Surprise surprise,it turns out that UK Online (govt portal and associated services) is closely tied up with Microsoft - to the extent that it was bouncing non IE browsers when first launched (though I believe that's fixed now.) Search the Register [theregister.co.uk] for "govt" and you'll see what I mean. I've been half-expecting them to announce some bullshit along these lines for the last few years. To those saying "HGey, but it's only web authentication" -- yes, it's web authentication to things like paying your taxes, contact any govt department, driving license, Court fines, criminal records, health records,... I shudder to think what this is going to look like in a few years' time. And to be honest, I can't think of a better target for (let's call them) "ethical crackers".



    Just when you think GW can't do anything more stupid...*sigh*. Anyone in favour of founding an independent state for geeks?

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