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Oracle Donates Software for Big Brother Database 215

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 jason99si ( 131298 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @08:57AM (#2659082)
    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.
  • 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.
  • by 1D10T ( 455536 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:17AM (#2659136) Homepage
    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.
  • by carlos_benj ( 140796 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:25AM (#2659164) Journal
    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.
  • Re:Umm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grid geek ( 532440 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:32AM (#2659181) Homepage
    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.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @10:01AM (#2659279) Homepage
    • 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?

  • 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.
  • 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. :)

  • by Otis_INF ( 130595 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @12:25PM (#2659958) Homepage
    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 Theodrake ( 90052 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @12:40PM (#2660037)
    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.

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

    by Peteresch ( 136753 ) on Wednesday December 05, 2001 @09:17PM (#2662955) Homepage
    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 [] see them as opposites.

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

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman