Tax Office needs to rethink open source objections

Tax Office needs to rethink open source objections

Summary: The Australian Tax Office CIO Bill Gibson claims that one of the reasons he hasn't deployed much open source software is due to security fears, with the code not subject to enough "technical scrutiny".

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The Australian Tax Office CIO Bill Gibson claims that one of the reasons he hasn't deployed much open source software is due to security fears, with the code not subject to enough "technical scrutiny".

"We are very, very focused on security and privacy and the obligations we have ... We would need to make sure that we are very comfortable through some form of technical scrutiny of what is inside such a product so that there is nothing unforeseen there," he told ZDNet.com.au in a video interview.

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I find it interesting that Gibson trusts software from proprietary vendors who keep their code a secret but distrusts open source vendors, who lay out their code for anyone to see.

If this is the prevailing attitude among CIOs, it seems like the open source movement still has a very long struggle ahead.

The full interview with Gibson will be published today on the ZDNet.com.au CIO Vision Series page.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Open Source

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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Talkback

8 comments
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  • Someone to blame

    You/re obviously unfamiliar with the way public service works....

    When things go wrong, and they always eventually do, you need pass the buck.. i,e. its the softwares vendors fault, we weren't told, we'll sue...

    You don't get that option with open source, i.e. you're responsible. This is why open source has a hard road to travel, unless you get it from Red Hat or Novell
    anonymous
  • you make no sense

    "You don't get that option with open source, i.e. you're responsible. This is why open source has a hard road to travel, unless you get it from Red Hat or Novell"

    So you are not alone and you can blame Red Hat or Novell. buy from them. simple. i think you have spent too much time in "public service"
    anonymous
  • Public service is about...

    I think "public service" is about providing quality services to citizens at the best price possible and not checking that you have someone to blame if something goes wrong.

    The impact of software choices on local economy should also be taken in consideration.

    Is the service better when public servants use a 400$ or 500$ MS Office software or just the same as with a 0$ OpenOffice ?

    What par of this n x 400$ goes in local economy and what part abroad ?
    anonymous
  • boy are you deluded

    I have sat in a meeting where two options were deliberately and explicitly positioned to the manager as the more technically risky option and the more personally risky (to the managers career) option. Of course, like all good public service managers he immediately chose the more technically risky option where there was more chance of system failure but he would be able to deny any responsibility.
    anonymous
  • We need to DEMAND open source from govt

    We need to demand, in the first instance that ALL govt depts comply with ISO standard formats within 18 months (ie Open Office over M$ office) including for all CV submissions etc.
    Then we need to insist that departments determine the max 20% of workstations that have a valid reason to not be an open source workstation, from operating system up.
    And we need to make sure that the Fed's laptops for all high school kids is done like the One Laptop Per Child project, using Ubuntu or another suitable purely-GUI Linux install.
    And we need ACCC to STOP under TPA the compulsory bundling of M$ OS with new computer sales. M$ knows that giving away the unpopular Shista OS is helping it claim market share (for FUD marketing) AND getting kids hooked on proprietary OSs, whereas the evidence is that most who change to Linux (eg Ubuntu) do NOT go back to proprietary software.
    anonymous
  • Impact Of Software Vendors.

    The local economy is always taken into consideration in providing quality services to the citizens at its best price with fit knowledge.
    anonymous
  • The value of Opinions on the security of Open Source

    When Gibson (ATO) and Farr (Defence - past ATO) provide an opinion I look at their past achievements and their dismal formal qualifications.

    Security of the (closed source applications) at the ATO's main processing office in Albury has been so bad in the past it has had to revert to paper systems. Recently, the ATO was struck by a virus resulting in all tax refund cheques to businesses being delayed. The ATO's e-business portal should have cost, at the most a few million. Instead it is past $725 million (and counting!) and the subject of a Parliamentary Accounts Committee Enquiry! See http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/it-business/late-work-nets-accenture-42m/story-e6frgaox-1225700513918

    These people have never created a business nor have they ever written and sold commercial software. They know nothing of the issues upon which they provide opinions; especially matters of code security and even less about how to run a profitable concern centred around Information Technology.
    anonymous
  • Such claim demonstrate how technology-wise incompetent Bill Gibson is.
    Proprietary software only provide promise of security (but not proof), while open source benefit from peer review.
    Confidence in "black-box" security exist only in minds of believers.
    In science everything verified through peer review and experiment.
    There can be no confidence in security without peer review.
    What proof of security they can provide if they're shy of their code??
    onlyjob