Tuesday, April 18, 2006

World's largest database accessed by NSA

AT&T is a fairly well-recognized brand name. And with the recent merger with SBC and the uglification of it's trademark, it is even more recognized...mostly for the ugly-looking trademark. At any rate, there apparently has been some really underhanded stuff going down:

http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_04.php#004538
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/

AT&T apparently stores over 300 terabytes (yes, terabytes!) of information internally at the company and has given access to the NSA to process the data. The NSA, for those who don't know, stands for National Security Agency - a federal agency that answers to the government but still has to abide by the law.

Essentially, the EFF is crying foul (and I agree) because just about everything done on the AT&T network is recorded in that database. One of two things should happen: AT&T should restrict access to just themselves or allow EVERYONE to access it (both the "good guys" and the "bad guys"). Privacy never really existed, so trying to create a false sense of privacy is a dumb idea. Allowing just the NSA to access the data is a stupid idea. The government is generally clueless.

As to the lawsuit itself, the EFF needs to make it large enough to hurt AT&T financially. A simple million dollar lawsuit is insufficient. Doing so, the EFF is making the same mistake Netscape made with Microsoft. If you sue someone for doing something stupid*, you need to make them hurt significantly where it matters most but not to the point that they go bankrupt. AT&T makes at least $43 billion dollars per year (net income/profit is $4.7 billion). The lawsuit should reflect the spirit of the Constitution and force AT&T to use their brains the next time they decide to do something stupid. Thus the lawsuit should be for $10 billion dollars and carry an injunction requiring AT&T to not fire nor cut anyone's pay for the next 5 years. Basically, the company would hurt as a result and take heavy losses for not using their brains but wouldn't go bankrupt. AT&T wouldn't disappear, but they will think twice about doing dumb things in the future and might even bring a moral core into other larger companies pulling equally dumb stunts. Where did common sense go?

* Suing over hot coffee is stupid - hot coffee is hot. Duh! That's the definition of 'hot'. The person who sued McDonald's lacked common sense. People who lack common sense are the sort of people who sue over trivial issues. Those who sue over trivial issues should be required to endure K-12 again...maybe they'll learn common sense the second time around. ("Depends on what the definition of 'is' is..." - Billy, you get to repeat Kindergarten...)


That said, I'd love to see what all is in that database and how it is configured. I mean, 300TB is nothing to sneeze at. There's gotta be some awesome stuff in there both in data and design. It is probably redundant and massively spread out across thousands of machines. Basically, a geek's dream come true :)

...until it crashes...then it becomes a geek's nightmare come true.

No comments:

Post a Comment