The myth of electronic privacy

Summary:I had been reading with amusement the tumultuous sex scandal that recently brought down New York Governor Eliot Spitzer from his post. What's interesting is that Spitzer earned his reputation as a hard-charging former prosecutor who had intricate knowledge of how organized crimes including prostitution rings, work because he battled them in a high-profile manner before becoming New York's top politician.

I had been reading with amusement the tumultuous sex scandal that recently brought down New York Governor Eliot Spitzer from his post. What's interesting is that Spitzer earned his reputation as a hard-charging former prosecutor who had intricate knowledge of how organized crimes including prostitution rings, work because he battled them in a high-profile manner before becoming New York's top politician.

Despite that expertise, the former governor was ironically caught in a wiretapped operation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Was Spitzer, a Harvard Law graduate, foolish or naive enough to think he wouldn't be caught? Didn't he realize that in spite of alleged secure and intrusion-proof communication, this era has also produced sophisticated surveillance tools that can snoop into the most protected system?

This is the reason why I'm not buying the claims of various vendors or operators that their products or infrastructure are hard as a fortress and cannot be compromised. There's no such a thing as a secured environment in this electronic age.

How, for example, can one explain the wiretapped conversation that was recorded during the 2004 general elections between Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and election officer Virgilio Garcillano? This scandal nearly toppled her administration, although the local carriers still insisted that their systems do not, and cannot, allow wiretapping. In that case, the intelligence service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was pointed as the one which undertook the operations.

Another example is the case of Filipino-American Leandro Aragoncillo, a former U.S. Marine and FBI employee who was caught sending classified information to deposed President Joseph Estrada. U.S. authorities were able to track him down by prying into his Hotmail and Yahoo e-mail accounts.

Going back to the Spitzer scandal, it's interesting to note how the U.S. media is also using the Web to get information on the callgirl with whom the disgraced governor had a tryst in a Washington hotel. After the New York Times blew the cover on Ashley Alexandra Dupre, her account at social networking site MySpace provided the initial glimpse into her personality. But, whether the publication of her photos, which was lifted from MySpace, was a form of intrusion into her privacy is a matter that has yet to be settled.

Rigodon Update Digressing a bit, let me introduce a sub-section in this blog, called "Rigodon Update", which will appear every now and then. This is just a revival of some sort as I used to helm column of this title in a local paper. Rigodon Update will contain tidbits of information on personnel movements in the Philippine IT industry--something which Pinoys are really fond of monitoring.

As an initial salvo, I know of at least five local IT guys who have taken new jobs recently.

First in the list is Antonio "T. J." Javier, the former managing director of Microsoft Philippines, who is now officially onboard as chief operating adviser of Novare Technologies. Javier left the software company under "contentious" circumstances last year but seems to have found a new home in Novare, a company controlled by the MDi group of industry maven Myla Villanueva.

Up next is Joubert Uriarte, the long-time tech guy of Sun Microsystems Philippines (SunPhil), who is now joining NetApp. It's still not clear what position Uriarte, son and spitting image of former Department of Science and Technology Secretary Filemon Uriarte Jr., would take up at NetApp.

Another guy making the jump is Richard Burgos, who left IBM Philippines after heading its communications division for nine years. He's now assistant vice president at Enchanted Kingdom (EK), the amusement center owned by the Mamon family, who also co-owns SunPhil.

Joining Burgos at EK is Menchu Hernandez, who also left her 12-year stint at SunPhil as communications and public relations chief. She's holding the same role at the amusement park company.

Lastly, veteran marketing and communications executive Christina "Tin-tin" Feliciano has quit her job at Alcatel-Lucent to open a business venture with a friend. According to her, their business deals with "below the line ad requirements".

Topics: Philippines

About

Joel has been a media practitioner since 1996, starting off as a reporter and eventually becoming editor of a pioneering IT trade newspaper in Manila. He is currently one of the content producers of a Manila-based developmental website.

About

Melvin G. Calimag is currently the executive editor of an IT news website in the Philippines. Melvin has been covering the local IT beat for the last 13 years. He is currently a board member at the IT Journalists Association of the Philippines (CyberPress), and also serves as a charter member with the Philippine Science Journalists Associ... Full Bio

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