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The Real Reason Open Source is Growing: Paranoid Politicians

Note: this article is the writers personal opinion. It is based upon almost 40 years of experience in small computers and communications, but it is still an opinion. It is presented AS IS. All use is at your own risk.

As a consumer advocate and somewhat self-interested business owner, my evaluation of any circumstance or potential change involves the instinctive question as to how it will affect me, or more candidly, how it will hurt me and what I can do to protect myself. Everyone does that. What really waves a red flag is when someone is less than transparent with us: employment interviews, contracts, or whatever.

In a United States where Constitutional Law is a variable which can be changed upon a whim for government convenience, where citizens are forced to stand spread eagle in front of a machine that electronically removes all their clothing so that their naked bodies (lots of links to this, and here, and here, and here,  and a story of how one man successfully protected his constitutional rights here, and it actually has created a new market for privacy protection, see here) are studied in detail  in a back room with promises that the powerful image processing computers they use cannot possibly save the image file for use later (see here and here and here and here), such as for evidence, or to send 50,000 of those images back to the factory for “technical” reasons, even if they whipped out their cell phone and took a pic of the computer screen, and then those citizens are sexually assaulted and their genitals actually fondled by minimum wage ‘security’ personnel who can’t get a job anywhere else, under the unsupportable excuse of airport ‘security’ (so far as we know to this date not one terrorist has ever been caught by this system, although many citizens with medical problems have had their urine dumped all over them, etc.), it is not too difficult to see how someone could find a clause in that 1,000 page “Homeland Security Act” that allows everything on anyone’s computer to be provided to some ‘security’ agency for the same excuse that they sexually assault the young women who wear dresses in airports: ‘just in case there might be something in there’ of interest. The only thing this systematic dehumanization of American Citizens does is restrict travel.

The US Constitution refers to both as Unreasonable Search. It is highly illegal from the most fundamental level. So far as we know to this date not one terrorist has ever been caught by this system: the only thing this systematic, criminal, dehumanization of American Citizens does is restrict travel.

Don’t get me wrong on this:  I have seen pictures taken by a modification of the typical Airport Porn Machine, er full body scanner, which is mounted in an unmarked “ZBV” (Z Backscatter Van) cruising the streets in southwestern towns and used to scan vehicles to find illegals. Look here and here and here. Most of the pics have been quickly censored by the perpetrators, since they are in a position to do that to cover their tracks. I am told several thousand of those vans are out there, working, right now. I have not made one complaint about it. I really don’t care if they scan people ad infinitum in airports, or city streets, or anywhere — BUT DON’T RUB IT IN OUR FACE. Have a little professionalism about how you law enforcement types break the law. Demonstrate enough respect for our Constitution that you don’t violate our most fundamental Rights of Citizenship by treating American Citizens as if they are middle ages European serfs. Scan me anytime you feel like it BUT DON’T TELL ME ABOUT IT.

If ‘security’ agencies can get away with forcing young women to stand spread eagle in public and submit to genital groping for no reason other than they are wearing a dress and ‘there might be something under there’ in front of dozens of witnesses then shouldn’t it be far easier to excuse cyber spying that no one can prove is happening? Note that it is not good enough if the young woman takes off her dress in public and stands there humiliated wearing nothing but her panties so there can be no possible doubt that she is not concealing anything: a young man in California did this already and a group of German protesters did this also: the ‘security’ person must stroke up and down the citizen’s inner thighs and then feel around their genitals.

This is heinous. There is no excuse for this. And the extreme outrage in this whole lie is that the demographic most likely to actually BE trying to conceal something are exempt from the whole procedure because ‘it is against their religion’. It is against most American Citizen’s religions also, but that doesn’t seem to matter as American Citizens are not likely to perpetrate acts of violence in revenge.

How bad is merely copying information from some business’s PCs compared to such systematic and highly illegal public dehumanization of American Citizens without so much as a mildly plausible excuse? Why would there be any qualms at all about illegally spying on American businesses if it is considered perfectly acceptable for government to line up Free Citizens and treat them like 6th century European serfs? There probably are not.

For two decades, at least a few of us denizens of planet Earth have pondered the implications of allowing Microsoft inside our corporate firewall: Microsoft is proprietary software, therefore we normally cannot know (at least without packet sniffers and a lot of hard work) what Microsoft software *really* is doing because we cannot inspect the actual code. Who knows what it will do because of defects in design or coding, or from unintended malware or virus programs, or most importantly of all, from under the table deals with data mining corporations and government agencies intent on voyeurism with the money to buy off Microsoft and get their own little secret code segments added to Windows for the collection and transmittal of my private, highly confidential, information. Information whose unauthorized disclosure could get my company fried under Sarbanes Oxley or HIPPA or 42CFR.

There has always been some following to conspiracy theories — there are doubtlessly still people who are absolutely certain that the earth is really flat and all the space flights merely elaborate government hoaxes. But the conspiracy theorists gain some credibility when Microsoft Windows code segments leak out with little data blocks marked “NSA Block #1” and “NSA Block #2”, and certain folders, such as C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\TemporaryInternetFiles\Content.IE5 which don’t exist if I try to find them while using Microsoft Windows but very much do exist and contain a complete history of my web browsing if I examine that same disk with a non-Microsoft OS, such as Linux. There are nine (9) such folders on my Windows 7 install: one in each user account and another in the Windows and System32 folders.

The damning part of this isn’t that a history of all content browsed is collected but rather that such extreme effort has been expended to conceal the fact from the business owner. One does begin to wonder if the conspiracy theorist nuts do have a valid concern at least part of the time. Everything you see on your computer and everything you type on your computer goes through your computer. It might be encrypted on the Internet, it might be scrambled and encrypted on your disk, but at some point in time it was readable. And if you could read it using your computer, then your computer *could* secret it away in nice, plain, readable form, so it *could* be forwarded to some interested third party without your knowledge or consent.

One of the more important forces driving adoption of Linux as “the” operating system a company will use on most of its computers is not just acquisition cost, or legal cost to maintain license records, or cost of special anti-malware software, but a reasonable fear that a huge, ultra rich corporation, might possibly care more about their own profit than the business’ privacy. In one of my businesses, the penalty is $240,000 per unauthorized disclosure of protected customer health information, so it matters.

Now consider how a foreign government which is a rival or antagonist to the United States government must think. The United States has no moral hindrance to dehumanizing their own citizens in a way that would result in immediate execution of the perpetrator in most countries, and probably spies on businesses electronically. Would the Americans spy on their rivals and enemies as well? Oh yeah.

According to an article in the Wall Street journal, Saturday-Sunday, January 8-9, 2011 (Review, page C3):

In the past, foreign governments have rushed to install the latest version of Microsoft Office or Google’s Chrome browser because it was hard to imagine that Washington would tinker with technology to advance its strategic interests. But just a few weeks before Mr. Putin publicly endorsed open-source software, FBI Director Robert Mueller toured Silicon Valley’s leading companies to ask their CEO’s to build back doors into their software, making it easier for American law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies to eavesdrop on online conversations. The very possibility of such talks is likely to force foreign governments to reconsider their dependence on American technology.

Half a decade ago I remember France jettisoned 50,000 Windows computers and replaced them with Mandrake Linux. China has of late been often in the news due to their isolationist / control policy concerning Internet use, to the point there are sometimes references to “The Great Fire Wall of China”. The WSJ article also observed:

… more governments are likely to start designating Internet services as a strategic industry, with foreign firms precluded from competing in politically sensitive niches.

The article mentions that Turkey is already considering a ‘national search engine’ and a ‘national email system’ and that Russia, China, and Iran have similar ongoing discussions. Remember the fight between Google and China last year, and the situation between Iran and RIM when Iran demanded the ability to read all Blackberry emails. The article says India, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates made similar demands on RIM last year.

And so the mechanism that is propelling open-source software into global dominance may not be technical superiority, or freedom, or even an elitist attitude: the driving force may simply be the lust for power and control, or paranoia about what someone else could do, or perhaps just reasonable caution.

And that necessitates another very important point for American Security — more important to our national security than making teenage girls submit to having their thighs caressed by a guard who says they ‘might have something under their dress’ as a condition of being allowed to fly home for the holidays: Microsoft is the largest employer of non-American H-1B visa programmers in the US — often from Asian countries who are our rivals. Can we Americans be absolutely positive that none of those 5,000 plus foreigners added their own countries’ little back doors, for their own purposes? I doubt that there is really any way that anyone can know with absolute safety. If you doubt this could happen, remember the Department of Homeland Security has already been compromised by a root kit hidden on Sony music CDs: one employee played one music CD in his computer, and the root kit spread through out the one place in America that is supposed to be the very most secure.

We had better spend our time and money fixing that problem first — a terrorist back door leaking our nation’s top security information via Microsoft Windows will hurt us far worse than a little school girl who just wants to get home from university.