Export Restrictions on a website?
September 10, 2002 11:28 PM   Subscribe

Export Restrictions on a website? I had to agree to this before downloading stuff from Oracle:
I am not a citizen, national or resident of, and am not under the control of, the government of: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, nor any other country to which the United States has prohibited export.
posted by arnab (10 comments total)
This is waaaaay old. Remember that thing you had to electronically sign just to download the 128-bit version of Netscape back in the day (circa 1996-7)?
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:32 PM on September 10, 2002

Does this (assuming that the restrictions are required by law) apply to all RDBMS technology, or is it there because of Oracle products that use encryption? Can you legally buy MS Access or download MySQL from a US site if you are a Syrian national?
posted by crunchburger at 11:41 PM on September 10, 2002

This isn't news, this is olds.

Donkeyschlong: And it wasn't until 1999 (or thereabouts) that those of us in Europe - and probably the rest of the world - could get 128 bit versions of IE and NS.. when the US finally relaxed its export restrictions.
posted by wackybrit at 11:42 PM on September 10, 2002

donkeyschlong:This is waaaaay old.

That is exactly what is bothering me. When does it change? If someone sitting in Syria accesses a "secure" login at say, Yahoo.com, he/she's "received an encrypted transmission" from a corportate entity in the US. What do you do about that?
posted by arnab at 11:54 PM on September 10, 2002

Um, deja vu? Is this not a repost?

I think I need some sleep, then.
posted by cortex at 11:56 PM on September 10, 2002

The export controls were relaxed a bunch, but they still exist, and lots of software is on the dual-use technologies or commerce control lists. Increasingly, even run-of-the-mill hardware [warning: QuickTime] is, as well; today's desktop systems are easily powerful enough to be useful for simulating bombs, or cracking codes, or securing military traffic.
posted by hattifattener at 1:33 AM on September 11, 2002

whoa. simulating nuclear explosions is difficult. it requires a lot of expertise, a lot or raw data (or you simulate very simple devices, in which case you're back on the manhattan project and can use a programmable calculator), and a lot of computing power. cracking codes is not possible using desktop computers (if it was, within reasonable timeframes, you'd be silly to shop at amazon). securing data, in contrast, is possible with a decent calculator.

in other words, the technical justification for those controls is not as clear cut as hattifattener's post implies.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:10 AM on September 11, 2002

Today's desktop computers are up to many of the tasks that hattifattener as long as you add an important qualifier. That qualifier is that you're not trying to do new cutting-edge research, but are trying to investigate areas within a decade or two of the state of the art. Todays high end desktops are comparable to yesterdays supercomputers, and for some applications more powerful.

Imagine how much efficient the Manhattan project could have been with a 2.4 GHz P4 and relatively freely available papers that describe algorithms and theory.
posted by substrate at 4:25 AM on September 11, 2002

how does this qualifier work? as i said, a programmable calculator is sufficient for the manhattan project, and iraq needs nothing more than that (the idea isn't to win a nuclear war, it's to explode a nuclear device).

and as far as crypto goes it's not about being on the leading edge. triple DES, which has been around for years, is simple enough to encrypt via *any* cpu (when someone visits iraq are they banned from carrying a palm pilot?) and unbreakable on *any* existing, or currently imagined, computer, or cluster.

in both cases technical knowledge is critical - that knowledge is freely available (i believe it is the case for bombs - as far as i know, the most important part is the shaping of the external conventional explosives and the trigger - and it's certainly true for crypto).

in the case of bombs, fissionable material and delivery are the other two big problems (afaik). i've heard arguments that iraq could process its own material (for moderate loss of life and little cost). hence weapons inspectors that do things like tracking certain useful chemicals. the delivery problem suggests you're safer in the usa than in israel...

and, of course, wtf has this to do with cuba? are they also part of the axis of evil?!
posted by andrew cooke at 4:49 AM on September 11, 2002

According to Bush, Cuba is part of the axis of evil, he groundlessly says they're developing bioweapons. Even if they weren't there were prohibitions against downloading Netscape in Cuba when I first started using it. You don't need to be on the axis of evil to be prohibited from accessing technology, being communist suffices.

You can replicate the Manhattan project with pocket calculators, but if you're starting from square one you'd get a big boost from using a computer. You can also attack some of the other problems such as delivery systems or just design a SCUD missile that actually can hit its target. If you're just looking to make sure that your country is reduced to a smoldering pile of rubble then you can go for the Manhattan project approach and detonate a primitive nuclear device in a populated area. Delivery systems don't even matter, drive it to a foreign consulate in a truck or ship it with cargo and detonate it in a port city.

If you're trying to gain a strategic advantage then you'll want to go beyond developing a primitively targeted nuclear device. You'll want to develop a delivery system so that you have a deterrent against say Israel using nuclear weapons against you. You'll want to develop dispersal systems for biological and chemical weapons. You'll want the existence of these devices to leak to other nations. This is where computing horse power comes in.

Do I believe that these restrictions are remotely useful? Not really. Do I believe that this is the reasoning that leads to them? I think its pretty close. I also think some of the unspoken reasoning involves making sure that some of these third world nations never rise up. It'd be embarassing to have a non-democratic country better itself.
posted by substrate at 5:37 AM on September 11, 2002

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