Monday, January 25, 2010

Private eyes are watching you...

...and possibly some not-so-private eyes. But it's all good, right, as long as they're on Our Side?

Well, maybe. However, there's more to a little truth in the old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions (for varying values of "good"). Amid the usual rush to blame Microsoft, there's word that Google's own government backdoor may have been the route Chinese hackers took to gain access to some Gmail accounts, whose owners apparently left them off a mailing list or two. That, to me, is far more interesting news than picking the lock on Internet Explorer to open said backdoor. IE lock picking is old news anyway, and and for those who know how it's probably easier than using a key.

I'm not going to rush and shut down my Gmail accounts, but then again I don't use Gmail for anything sensitive or confidential (and I would strongly advise against such use, even if you work for Google - or perhaps especially if you work for Google). All their purported "spy system" is going to 'reveal' about me is that:

I like computers
I like horses
I have no entries in my address book (and therefore presumably no social life)

I invite both Google* and the Chinese - and any other entities Google shares information with, whether voluntarily or involuntarily - to make of that what they will. Meanwhile, I'll continue to carefully vet out any email services I'm even considering for usage more confidential or sensitive than model horse collecting, techie newsletters, or the occasional "Howdy back!" to a friend who catches me in passing. If a particular message warrants particularly special handling, I may even in that instance eschew email altogether.

Electronic communications are here to stay, and are only going to become more varied and embedded in the way we conduct our daily business, personal and non. As these communication systems become more sophisticated, like it or not, we'd better do the same. Not only in how we use them, but in our comprehension of the infrastructures behind them.

"In the aftermath of Google's announcement, some members of Congress are reviving a bill banning U.S. tech companies from working with governments that digitally spy on their citizens. Presumably, those legislators don't understand that their own government is on the list."

Oops. Hopefully Congress will be among the first to become more sophisticated in their comprehension (if not their usage). Otherwise their own fine print may come back to haunt them.

*Of course, Google also owns Blogspot, but what I post here obviously is for ANYONE to make of it what they will. So I'm good with that too. :-)

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