Having just read that Google is taking up residence at Moffett Field, a storied air base in Mountain View that is home to NASA's Ames Research Center, among others, I realized there's a great opportunity for Google to learn a little about high end security, at least the kind that secures a perimeter, fends off unwarranted access, and punishes miscreants with true Old Testament fervor. With this comes the hope that Google will also learn that security must be taken seriously, and in the process become a little serious about changing its terms of service for its online apps to bring them in accord with accepted corporate security practice.
And therein lies a story. I had the pleasure of visiting Moffet recently to get a briefing from a most interesting little company, Apprion, and, having come in the wrong entrance (i.e. not the one on my Yahoo maps printout), I found myself wandering around somewhat aimlessly, looking for street signs and other directional indicators that Moffett seems to be too cheap, or too clever, to post. Next thing I know, lights were flashing in my rear view mirror and I was being pulled over by a cop, though not just any cop, this was a Federal police officer, as we were on Federal govmint property. Apparently, security is so tight that a relatively well-dressed, if poorly coifed, man in a relatively harmless mini-van, is jail bait if he dares to get lost at Moffett.
The encounter was pleasant enough -- a misspent youth taught me to always be civil to someone with a badge -- and I was let off with a warning. The crime -- some Federal version of reckless driving that is a catch-all misdemeanor used to clear the roads of meandering daddy vans -- was a little made up, but it was only a warning.
What my hosts at Apprion told me when I relayed the story was that a real ticket on Federal property is a major hassle, for one important reason: there's no appeal process. Despite constitutional guarantees of due process that our Founding Fathers ensconced in our legal system, if you get a ticket at Moffet, there's no traffic school, no groveling in front of a judge, no opportunity to explain why your pants were on fire and you had to run that red light at 70 miles per hour. Effectively, that made the cop who pulled me over my judge and possible executioner, which meant I felt especially lucky that I had washed the van that morning and cleared out the debris from a weekend spent hauling the kids around.
I later found out the real kicker: get a couple tickets from the Feds, and they can ban you from the property, or at least from driving on to the property. Wow: talk about crime and punishment. I was impressed, and a little awed at the lack of redemptive possibility that we Americans are so used to, particularly when it comes to a mere speeding ticket or two.
So, there's a couple morals to this story. As the Gang from GOOG starts getting comfy in their new digs, it will be interesting to see how this tough love security model rubs off on them. Maybe they'll see what no-nonsense security is all about, what a real security team means when they talk about enforcement, and what it does to the innocent (me, I swear!) when they're faced with the prospect of true damnation. Then, maybe, Google will try to tighten things up a little so that their users could rest assured that their content isn't going to end up in a Google marketing campaign, or worse, and just maybe Google will realize that free to the user doesn't have to mean free for Google to use as it sees fit. Ahhh, one can always dream.
The other moral to the story? Next time I'll use Google Maps. I'm pretty confident they'll have the Moffett map thing nailed down before my next visit. Because, right now, searching for Apprion's address in Google Maps yields the following result:
We were not able to locate the address: NASA AMES Research Park, Bldg 19, Moffett Field, CA 94035
I imagine they're planning on fixing that problem right away.