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Red Alert!!
December 13, 2002 12:47 PM   Subscribe

At InfoSecuity 2002, an annual corporate security conference, new "computer forensics" software is on display, including software "that allows corporate IT folks to research employees' criminal histories, credit information, financial asset details, friends and associates. "

The software is called Red Alert 2.0, and more specifically the research software is an optional subscription based add-on called Intelligent Information Dossier plus. Isn't this tantamount to your employer spying on your private life, in real time?

As I work for a very large military contractor myself, I could easily see something like this being used where I work. Would you feel comfortable working for a company that uses this sort of intrusive software?
posted by SweetJesus (21 comments total)

 
It's kinda scary stuff. I took a look around SavvyData's web site, but I couldn't find any extra information about IID+.

If anything like this was enacted where I work, I'm not sure if I'd continue to work there. I've already been drug tested, and finger printed (for government security clearances). This real-time spyware is just too intrusive.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:51 PM on December 13, 2002


One wonders what they're looking for. I can understand if they want to know if you're a maniac or a thief or something, but I don't get why they would want mundane stuff like credit reports or names of friends. And what are they going to do if they find something they don't like? Would they fire you? Can you sue them for wrongful termination?
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:54 PM on December 13, 2002


I don't know - I don't think this is a good idea to do everywhere, but I would feel better knowing that any company dealing with my private customer information (CC number, SSN, like a bank) had made every effort to identify any threats to that information.
posted by drobot at 12:54 PM on December 13, 2002


I don't know about where you work, but at least in most of the IT community (unless you're a contractor) you're hired as an "at-will" employee. Which means that the company you work for can fire you at any time, and for any reason.

Conversely, you can quit at any time, for any reason. I think that's how the logic goes. It's very hard to win a wrongful termination suit if you're an "at-will" employee.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:57 PM on December 13, 2002


Q-Tronics Predictive Analysis For Software MeFi Posts

1) so what's the big deal? as long as you are not a liberal have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.
Probability: 98.7763%

2) wow. employers spy on thier employees, powerful politicians receive special treatment, and rich offenders get off lightly. i'm shocked. where's the news?
Probability: 96.3358%

3) oh no. the sky is falling. yawn.
Probability: 96.3217%
posted by quonsar at 1:19 PM on December 13, 2002


RylandDotNet: People with no money or really bad credit are considered security risks due to the possibility that they could be bribed or paid for information. At the federal level, mismanagement of your personal finances is a frequent reason for denying security clearances. Also real-time monitoring of financial information can be used to see if questionable transactions are occurring. I think of all these things are perfectly valid for FBI agents or whatever, but I would hate to work for a private company that's just plain nosy.
posted by monkeyman at 1:25 PM on December 13, 2002


For --> <-- Software
posted by quonsar at 1:26 PM on December 13, 2002


Aren't you clever, quonsar... Your post smacks of wit, and more importantly, intelligence! It's a great contribution to this thread.

It's brought on a paupable sense of warmness, in my otherwise cold, black heart. A thousand thank-you's!
posted by SweetJesus at 1:28 PM on December 13, 2002


And then the other edge of the sword: this information can be used to ferret out and purge whistleblowers.

Welcome to the New World Order.
posted by moonbiter at 4:48 PM on December 13, 2002


Would you feel comfortable working for a company that uses this sort of intrusive software?

Not only would I not feel comfortable working for such a company, I would not do so.
posted by rushmc at 5:40 PM on December 13, 2002


Would you feel comfortable working for a company that uses this sort of intrusive software?

Hell yes. Indeed, I have helped companies implement these systems. And in fact anyone who has money at banks or brokerages ought to be overjoyed by this stuff. Most of my work is with Fortune 1000 financial services firms, and while script-kiddie hackers get a disproportionate amount of press, the stats in the security business demonstrate fairly conclusively that the single greatest security threat (accounting for something like 65% - 75% of all known security breaches) are insiders accessing systems while doing their jobs. (Example ... the recent bust, in New York, of the identity theft ring that ripped off a lot of damn individuals ...).

This is exactly the sort of thing that these systems are designed to catch ... and hopefully catch before 30,000 people have had their bank accounts emptied.

This stuff has been around for awhile, but the latest twist is the profiling software (like RedAlert) that combines personal information with at-work monitoring. While it does sound kinda big-brotherish, it is almost necessary. The last large Wall Street firm I worked at, for instance, required me to move all of my accounts - banking and brokerage - in-house. Not because they needed the business, but because the SEC has stringent insider-trading laws that have to be met. They had to watch what I did. And simply watching what I did at work isn't enough. Many of those smart enough to rip off customer are easily smart enough not to do anything overtly criminal at work - they'll do it with personal computer accounts at home, set up shell accounts, etc., etc.

It is a "New World Order" - one in which merely having a bank account, or buying online, can expose you to significant risks ... and corporations are simply being responsible by attempting to effectively address those risks.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:06 PM on December 13, 2002


The last large Wall Street firm I worked at, for instance, required me to move all of my accounts - banking and brokerage - in-house.

That's just sick. You can't eliminate risk in any endeavor, you can only moderate, and it is not justifiable to trade away all privacy and personal autonomy to sustain an illusion of security. I find your willingness to relinquish control over your life to corporate and governmental interests suspect and reprehensible.
posted by rushmc at 8:00 PM on December 13, 2002


Not so sure I trust the benign intent of corporate IT departments. I guess my concern is that there are no clear-cut criteria for "appropriate use" of monitoring information by private organizations, and this doesn't exactly inspire confidence in those of us who are lower-level employees. Surreptitiously gathered information sounds like the logical extension of office-politics-as-usual, offering a convenient pretext for ending employment or for harassment. Although the privacy organizations are working on best practices, they have a long way to go before the rules of engagement on personal information are spelled out clearly enough to inspire confidence in the general public.
posted by sheauga at 9:45 PM on December 13, 2002


I find your willingness to relinquish control over your life to corporate and governmental interests suspect and reprehensible.

Suspect of what, exactly?
posted by kindall at 10:10 PM on December 13, 2002


I find your willingness to relinquish control over your life to corporate and governmental interests suspect and reprehensible.

Well, I'm certainly fine with that opinion ... though I personally consider the privacy fanatics in the world to often be just plain juvenile ... like 14 year olds that insist their parents can't enter their room because they have such special, secret things in there (that, unknown to them, are nearly identical to the special secret things that millions of others have). And also understand we are responsible for keeping finanical systems safe. Problems do happen - its impossible to stop all crooked people - but a lot of them are stopped before anyone gets hurt.

But I'm curious. Aren't you one of those that talk about corporate responsibility? Exactly how do you think corporations police their employees? I was a senior executive in a global financial firm. I came across what would probably be termed "inside information" on a regular basis. I did not trade on it - not because doing so is seriously illegal, but for purely ethical reasons. Believe it or not (and most MeFi'ers probably don't) the vast majority of my colleagues also acted with a high regard for legal and ethical standards. And we all understand how damaging the people are that ignore those standards (10,000 executives can act legally and ethically, but when one screws up, it's all over the news, and winds up on MeFi with all manner of people talking about how crooked all execs are).

You want your precious privacy and "autonomy"? No prob - just stay away from large corporations. Or at least stay in the lower ranks. The higher up the ladder you climb, the more responsibilities you have and the more people (and agencies) look over your shoulder at every little thing you do. Keep delicate info like which CD's you bought, or where you traveled, or what books you like secret. Cool! Claim the right to bank anywhere you want. Great! For myself, I'll take corporate jets to Asia, helicopters to corporate retreats, and at least 7 figures in total comp in goods years. And somehow, don't feel as though I've sacrificed some adolescent sense of self.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:39 PM on December 13, 2002


Wow... He write about it as if we'd really care. I mean, if that post wasn't a cry for attention, I don't know what is.

So what if you're a CEO, or CTO, or corporate whatever. What I find funny is the idea that I'm considered juvenile because I believe that, hey, maybe complete strangers shouldn't know how I spend my money. I don't think there is anything ridiculous to that.

You work on Wall Street, or some other megalithic financial institution, which is different world than 99% of the population. I work in the software development field, specifically military applications. I still don't think anyone has a right to spy on my private life, via private investigators, or information-gathering software.

I've never been arrested, and I've passed an FBI background check for my government clearance. I'd rather be thought to be trusted, and not assumed to be a spy by my employer.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:57 PM on December 13, 2002


Wow... He write about it as if we'd really care. I mean, if that post wasn't a cry for attention, I don't know what is.

Sorry to bore you. It was in response to this: " I find your willingness to relinquish control over your life to corporate and governmental interests suspect and reprehensible." ... which was little other than a nasty personal shot. And a "cry for attention".

I've never been arrested, and I've passed an FBI background check for my government clearance. I'd rather be thought to be trusted, and not assumed to be a spy by my employer.

Good. But if you are working on things that someone with intentions less pure than your own could use to do damage to others - I would just assume someone payed atrention to what you are doing.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:01 PM on December 13, 2002


Aren't you one of those that talk about corporate responsibility? Exactly how do you think corporations police their employees?

I don't think I've talked much about it here, if at all, but certainly I believe in "corporate responsibility"...who wouldn't? Our society gives corporations great power, and with power must come responsibility. But I don't believe in any system which presumes guilt--they are anthitetical to the principles which my government was founded on. If someone breaks a law--whether in a back alley or a corporate boardroom, they should be punished appropriately, but treating adults as though they are inherently criminal is insulting, demeaning, and tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

just stay away from large corporations

When it comes to employment, I do. It's not so easy in other areas, however.

... which was little other than a nasty personal shot.

Not at all. It was a genuine response to your stated beliefs. If someone said to you that they liked to kill and eat small children on a regular basis, would any objection you made to that preference be a "nasty personal shot?" Well, I find your stance equally repugnant. That does not, however, imply that I feel any ill will toward you personally.

For myself, I'll take corporate jets to Asia, helicopters to corporate retreats, and at least 7 figures in total comp in goods years.

I defend your right to sell yourself, mind, body and soul, to whomever you wish. But if you try to defend your choice on "moral" grounds, or attempt to persuade me that I should behave in the same fashion, I will challenge your reasoning.
posted by rushmc at 6:22 AM on December 14, 2002


Not at all. It was a genuine response to your stated beliefs. If someone said to you that they liked to kill and eat small children on a regular basis, would any objection you made to that preference be a "nasty personal shot?" Well, I find your stance equally repugnant. That does not, however, imply that I feel any ill will toward you personally.

Odd comparison. But instead of saying it was a nasty personal shot, I probably should have simply said that I responded in kind - since if you were not being nasty or personal, you naturally don't believe that my reponse - i.e., that privacy fanatics are simply juvenile - is nasty either.

I defend your right to sell yourself, mind, body and soul, to whomever you wish. But if you try to defend your choice on "moral" grounds, or attempt to persuade me that I should behave in the same fashion, I will challenge your reasoning.

This is little other than a cheap characterization. No, strike, that, I'll just respond in kind with an alternative characterization. I defend your right to hold tight to some adolescent notion that no one should have access to any information about you unless you explicitly permit it. That when Ford executives are exected to drive Ford cars, and Citi executives are expected to bank at Citi, and Delta executives are expected to fly Delta, that they have somehow sold their "bodies, minds, and souls" to their companies.

But if you try to assert that there's some moral foundation to hold those views, or that they are, in fact, anything other than a childish stamping of one's feet ... then I suppose I've got to challenge your reasoning.
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:21 PM on December 14, 2002


[...]anything other than a childish stamping of one's feet[...]

When a child demands privacy, he is demanding that his most personal self be allowed to develop free of outside influence. Denied the protection of an inviolate cocoon, the self will inevitably warp and bend to accomodate outside persuasions - which is fine, if the goal is to cross-pollinate young corporate hybrids (or mindless consumers), but not so fine if the goal is to fearlessly exalt and encourage the possibilities of the individual human spirit.

Privacy is stamping one's feet - to the tune of unfettered personal choice and unrestricted personal development.

Little choices made in dark places - unobserved, unreported, secret, and sometimes silly - are a luxury Americans have always been able to afford, and despite current rhetoric to the contrary, we can still afford them. If a corporation finds itself unable to do business without first demanding that its employees surrender their privacy, then it has over-extended its reliance on its particular brand of trustworthiness. Silly corporation.

--==Stamp!==--
posted by Opus Dark at 9:35 PM on December 14, 2002


You want your precious privacy and "autonomy"? No prob - just stay away from large corporations. Or at least stay in the lower ranks. The higher up the ladder you climb, the more responsibilities you have and the more people (and agencies) look over your shoulder at every little thing you do.

I think you've hit on an important point - it isn't the execs and the people in the "upper ranks" that suffer; they expect to be under the microscope, and they're compensated for it. I'm with you there. But the schlubs in the lower ranks (schlubs like me), those who have little or no opportunity to wreak instant havoc on thousands of innocent bank accounts, they aren't getting compensated for that level of intrusiveness and they don't deserve it. Maybe my poor little secrets are pretty drab and unexciting, but they're my secrets, and I don't choose to sell them. If you want to sell yours, that's fine, I don't even blame you; but don't justify an invasion of my privacy by saying you don't mind giving up yours.
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:59 PM on December 15, 2002


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