osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Eternal User Question: Secuirty v. Convenience v. Corporate Policy

In the amazing further sideshows that the internet makes possible in our political process, we have the hacking of Sarah Palin's Yahoo! email account (some details here.

Perversely, it raises some actual policy questions -- although not about Palin specifically. Rather, it raises the problems for users generally and their trade offs as we blur the lines of work and home and our need for security.

Alaska spent a couple of million dollars to build a more secure email system. Palin opted to do a lot (but not all) official email on her personal Yahoo! account. Opponents say this was a deliberate move to avoid Alaska's FIOA. In that case, Palin decided to use a less secure system to keep her stuff out of the public eye. We will savor the irony even as we deplore hacking.

Defenders argue that Palin was trying to avoid violating the Alaska government policy on personal email use (including email relating to political activity). Sure, some public business gets mixed into that, and probably a fair number of emails could have been sent just fine via the Alaskan email system. But who wants to take chances and who keeps track for any given email, especially when you are dealing potentially with hundreds of emails that combine personal, political and governmental business?

I'm actually rather sympathetic to Palin on this one. Proving motive here is damn difficult, and even if she made a conscious decision to put emails that should have gone on one system on another to avoid Alaska's FIOA, I'm not feeling the outrage. My actual thought is that anyone with a Yahoo! or Gmail or other web accessible account (which means anyone) ought to feel a chill that someday that tasteless joke someone forwarded to you that you failed to delete is going to pop up on some website and cost you your job.

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