March 11, 2003 by Allen George
Today has been an … unusual day. First, there was the usual flaming on OS News about how Microsoft products (specifically Office 2003) was better than Star Office and how the new XML format would be a boon to the OSS community (MS supporters saying this). I…disagree. Microsoft knows that the MS Office document formats _are_ the key to the kingdom. I doubt that one of the document formats being XML will simplify the job of any OSS developers. I also believe that those who are making these comments are highly mistaken about how tedious and demanding the job of reverse engineering a file format is. In other news, Mitch Kapor decided to leave Groove Networks because he became aware that it was part of the government’s TIA (Total Information Awareness) plans. Here is the original New York Times article referring to it. To say I am shocked about this development is an understatement. I’ve always been concerned about the steady erosion of privacy that has been occuring in the United States. I’ve also always been derided as being ‘paranoid’ by Justin for having these views. However, I do believe in being informed about developments – since information is the first line of defence that an individual can have. Why am I concerned about the United States’ actions? Reality is that Canada is tied economically to the United States, and political, security and privacy changes have an uncomfortable way of leaking across the border. For example, in response to the American administration’s demand to ‘plug the porous Canadian border’ (which according to Hillary Clinton _leaks_ terrorists), our Immigration Minister floated the idea of a national identity card. I’m _sure_ this card would _never_ be misused. Which leads me to another sad observation. The “War on Terror” has given impetus to the administration to implement laws that are significantly eroding the privacy rights of individuals. For example – to go back to Groove Networks – imagine that because of the ability to collect information from thi piece of software, the government was able to track your habits. Is that not a violation of your privacy? Who is to say that this information will not be misused? Even better – how many Americans know that their government is taking steps like this? I cannot believe that the American people can condone actions like this. Why is this happening? Are they not informed? Do they believe that their security is best served by removing/slowly limiting the very rights and freedoms that they treasure? Osama bin Laden’s attack was far more successful than he ever could have imagined. The American administration is using the threat of terror attacks as the rationale behind programs like the USA PATRIOT act, the TIA and more. And the worst part is they’re succeeding. I’m glad I’m a member of the EFF (I was surprised to learn that it was co-founded by Mr. Kapor) and I’ve got to say this – my donation will be increasing next time. I am not able to spend time lobbying against laws that undermine privacy, but I can contribute so that in some way, I am helping. My respect of Mitch Kapor increased significantly today – most people would have stayed on an shut up. He didn’t.