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Malaysian Government Offers Free E-mail To All Citizens 189

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept.
jfruhlinger writes "Attempts to move governments to electronic communications often hit a serious snag: Governments must serve all citizens, and not all citizens have email addresses. Malaysia's solution to the problem: offer free email to every Malaysian adult. Citizens will be able to get their @myemail.my address by inserting a smartcard into a reader or presenting it in person." Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?
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Malaysian Government Offers Free E-mail To All Citizens

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  • Since american corporations were so keen on providing spying/filtering equipment to even the regimes they were banned from trading (iran), all world governments have the ability to spy on all kinds of communications already.

    it wouldnt matter zit, whether government is your email provider or not. either way, they will spy on you.
    • by microbox (704317) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:45AM (#35941314)

      it wouldnt matter zit, whether government is your email provider or not. either way, they will spy on you.

      Actually, a government department is less likely to spy on you because they have no economic incentive. All you need is privacy provision in the email act, and the chances become very slim. I've worked in government, and they like to do things by the book.

      • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @10:28AM (#35941876) Homepage

        Yeah, nobody freaks out about the government being in charge of postal mail, and that's actively scanned by xray. And, there are always alternatives if you don't like it.

        Actually, a government department is less likely to spy on you because they have no economic incentive. All you need is privacy provision in the email act, and the chances become very slim. I've worked in government, and they like to do things by the book.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, nobody freaks out about the government being in charge of postal mail, and that's actively scanned by xray. And, there are always alternatives if you don't like it.

          You must not live in america. In the US, the Republican half of the population dislikes the idea of government doing anything other than defense and law enforcement. A much smaller part of the population takes hatred of government over the line into mental illness. For some reason, the news likes to give these people a platform.

          • by somersault (912633) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @11:18AM (#35942544) Homepage Journal

            What, so they're happy to give the government lots of guns and money to invade other countries and protect themselves, but they're unhappy at the idea of the government actually providing any useful services? Talk about whipped.

            • by jpapon (1877296) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @11:47AM (#35942904) Journal
              Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

              Additionally, they believe that corporations do everything better, because they do it for a profit. They also trust corporations (which, thanks to them, have no oversight) more than the government (which has a lot of oversight, and general accountability to the public). Boggles the mind, but it's true.

            • by Cwix (1671282) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @01:00PM (#35943758)

              Yes, there are plenty of republicans who feel the government should only do two things, kill brown people, and keep them out of the country.

              There are sane people, but for some reason many of them refuse to take a stand against the bat shit crazies. The crazies on the far right (including teabaggers) wont be happy until every single piece of the government is chopped up and sold off piece meal to a for profit corp that will require a profit margin to do the same job that the government did without the profit margin.

              That what I never understood about "fiscal conservatives" how can we save money if we have a new cost, namely profit margin. Until I hear a reasonable answer anyone who wants to offload government duties to a corporation will be just plain stupid in my book.

              • Well, I'm not really interested in being associated with any ideology, but one argument for privatisation would probably be for efficiency, as large governments (thought also large corporations) get quite bogged down just from their sheer size and inertia, but I don't have a problem with for example the NHS here in Scotland, it's always done a decent job for me. It's not perfect of course, but I'm happy that those who couldn't otherwise afford healthcare can still be looked after those who want to go privat

              • by Amouth (879122)

                That what I never understood about "fiscal conservatives" how can we save money if we have a new cost, namely profit margin. Until I hear a reasonable answer anyone who wants to offload government duties to a corporation will be just plain stupid in my book.

                I'm not labeling my self as a "fiscal conservative" but i will say that the current incarnation of government has issues - and i understand that a profit margin is a new "cost" compared to current government.. but in the rest of the world if you can't turn a profit you die.. in the government we can just spend money that doesn't exist and bank roll it for our selves and screw the public.

                If sections of government where held accountable for quantitative results based on their effort and the funds put into t

              • by mjwx (966435)

                That what I never understood about "fiscal conservatives" how can we save money if we have a new cost, namely profit margin. Until I hear a reasonable answer anyone who wants to offload government duties to a corporation will be just plain stupid in my book.

                Most will complain about governmental efficiency and claim that the profit margin is easily covered by increases in efficiency.

                This argument ignores three things.

                1: Government departments are not that inefficient. There are a few bad examples tha

            • The [theoretical] Republican idea is that government is grossly inefficient, so it should only do things the public cannot be entrusted to do. For example, the military and police are justified only because we can't reasonably allow vigilantism.

              (I say "theoretical," by the way, because all the small-government rhetoric goes out the window when you start talking about the Republican social agenda.)

          • by RobNich (85522)

            Republicans dislike the idea of the FEDERAL government doing anything outside those specifically outlined in the US Constitution. The state and local governments are not part of that. It's not all government.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalism [wikipedia.org]

        • Yeah, nobody freaks out about the government being in charge of postal mail, and that's actively scanned by xray. And, there are always alternatives if you don't like it.

          I don't really mind that Aust Post scans the mail I send through it, they have strict privacy policies they must adhere to and as the GGP pointed out, no incentive to actively snoop on me. Besides, X-Rays aren't really capable of telling what I wrote and all incoming mail is scanned by customs regardless of who is carrying it when it enters the country.

          If I did have a problem with Aust Post I could easily use the more expensive options like couriers.

          So if the Aussie government were to offer me a free

      • by JavaRob (28971)

        Do some reading on the Malaysian government, though.

        They do not do things by the book. There is no book. The corruption, the nepotism, the thuggery, the ridiculous government-endorsed racism, the sheer idiocy and ignorance....

        They (the party that's been in power since the 60's -- not a good sign, is it?) don't come under pressure to clean house from the wider world because there aren't genocides going on, no large-scale horrors. They keep the abuses relatively low-key (like heavy "affirmative action" for

        • by mjwx (966435)

          They do not do things by the book. There is no book. The corruption, the nepotism, the thuggery, the ridiculous government-endorsed racism, the sheer idiocy and ignorance....

          Welcome to Asia mate.

          That's commonplace in every SE Asian nation. Thailand for Thais, Malaysia for Malays, Vietnam for Viets. Compared to their neighbours, Malaysia is quite open to foreigners considering I can buy land and my first car is tax free.

          Corruption and graft is an economy in itself, but that's how things get done over

      • Dude, I think this is right as far as it goes - your average government department, and employees of those departments, do like to do things by the book. But I'm not worrying about my mail being read by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. I'm worried about it being read by the NSA, CIA, or whoever. And THOSE guys don't need an economic incentive. And whatever gov't department that would end up providing the e-mail service would no doubt have written into the "book" that they cough up any citize

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        A government department would also have no financial incentive to spy on a person, as opposed to private E-mail providers looking to dig through stored E-mail for any information (even "anonymized") they can sell to anyone who is willing to pony up for it.

        I would also trust a government E-mail system because security is in their interest. In the private sector, oftentimes PHBs feel that because security has no obvious ROI, they can skimp on it. A breach in a private company has no consequences. In the pu

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Actually spying and law enforcement by government officials is almost never due to economic concerns already, why do you think their snooping into email would be any different?
      • by kent_eh (543303)

        I've worked in government, and they like to do things by the book.

        You've worked for the Malaysian government?
        There are a lot of governments that would probably act as you have said, either for the reasons you have stated, or from laziness or incompetence.
        But there are a lot of others who already go to great lengths to learn a great deal about their citizens actions and communication.
        Those I would not trust to be my e-mail provider.

        Now, the trick is to know which sort of government you happen to live under.

    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:49AM (#35941382) Homepage

      Considering these e-mail addresses are meant for communication with the government, I see no problem with them being hosted by the government. Just do all your normal e-mailling with a regular provider and communicate with the government using either your own e-mail address or the government-hosted one.
      They could spy all they want; all e-mail in these boxes is either from or to them anyway.

      • by Tomahawk (1343)

        Agreed. I have one email address that I use for my 'official' stuff, and my normal email address that my friends all use. (plus several more for spam dumps and various other things). I can use my Gmail to collate them all for me, so I don't need to check them all individually - I get them all to my phone. I also have Gmail setup so that I can email from any of these addresses too, so the recipient still gets an email from the address they have.

        So yeah, let the Government host an email address for each p

        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          The main problem here, of course, is deciding on what the email address should be.

          Could just let the users pick, same as 'normal' services. I assume the system will tie addresses to real names, since it's to be used for official business, so systematic assignment seems unnecessary.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Considering these e-mail addresses are meant for communication with the government, I see no problem with them being hosted by the government. Just do all your normal e-mailling with a regular provider and communicate with the government using either your own e-mail address or the government-hosted one.
        They could spy all they want; all e-mail in these boxes is either from or to them anyway.

        Or consider it's Malaysia, and they're a pretty religious (Islam) lot as well. It's could very well be a stepping stone

      • by dargaud (518470)
        Agreed. And it should be the same with ID cards. There's a time when you need to identify yourself when interacting with _your_ gov. But it shouldn't be used for any other purpose. Like social security numbers are reserved for use with the social security. Ho, wait...
    • all world governments have the ability to spy on all kinds of communications already.

      Yeah? How do they spy on TLS-wrapped e-mail, web, VoIP, or XMPP traffic, OTR-wrapped AIM, or WPA2 wireless, to name a few?

      • by unity100 (970058)
        deep packet inspection.
        • calea

          nothing can get online (as a commercial product) unless its sniffable and tappable by big government.

          been this way for a long time, now, too.

          all govs. ALL of them. 'good' and bad ones; all alike in this aspect.

          DPI and hardware decode is the current rage in datacomm. (so many job interviews I've seen lately are ALL about 'managing' DPI based features on high end core-level and edge routers).

        • deep packet inspection.

          How does deep packet inspection thwart encryption?

      • by Exitar (809068)

        Obligatory xkcd:
        http://xkcd.com/538/ [xkcd.com]

      • Remember the predator software? It was never fully disclosed, and it has evolved into something else now. So, we know that they had some rather powerful software, for which some pretty wild claims were made, and it has been improved upon since then. With or without a warrant, the government arrives at your ISP one day, and sits down to intercept all your traffic for inspection. Everything that passes into or out of your network is theirs, simple as that. If you actually have anything that they can't pe

        • If you actually have anything that they can't peer into, or that they can't crack, then they just wait til you are at work, then with or without another warrant, they enter your home to install a keylogger on your keyboard(s).

          If the government wants you badly enough, they've got you.

          And they probably have a list of unpatched holes in the open source servers as well. But at least those things require an actual 4th Amendment warrant (local interpretations of USAPATRIOT not withstanding). The notion of ubiqu

      • ... walk up to your computer and read them?

        I know we're all hot and bothered by the thought of automated conspiracy theories about government spying... but warrants are stupid easy to get and they can force you to unlock your e-mail for review or put you in jail for refusing. That's in the US where there's a presumption of innocence (Hi UK) and procedural integrity (looking at you Italy, France and Spain).

      • Good question. They reflash the BIOS of your PC without you noticing it and get the data before it is encrypted. Or they use an existing backdoor in the BIOS. Or they hack and reflash the firmware on other devices like e.g. your wireless router. Or they hijack existing upgrade mechanisms of software on your PC (using bogus DNS services) to put a rootkit on it. Perhaps they have control of an SSL certificate authority and can successfully launch a man in the middle attack. Perhaps they can control the defaul

  • Would you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cornwallis (1188489) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:41AM (#35941266)

    > Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?

    I don't trust my government to be my government!

  • by Nerdfest (867930) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:42AM (#35941276)
    Sure. Since email's not remotely secure anyway, this would eliminate any "I wonder if my government is reading my mail" concerns. If you need secure coms, PGP is very easy to set up, so much so that I wonder why it's not used more. I would think that if Google supported it in GMail it would probably be more popular. Of course PGP doesn't hide who you're communicating *with*, only what you're saying.
  • Back in 2000 the Portuguese government announced the creation of up to 1 million email accounts. It was a flop I think, as most people that had internet access already had an email account, but still it looks good in the press releases...
    • by jrumney (197329)
      My guess is that tying the account to the government issued smartcard is intended to provide a secure login for public terminals. This isn't so much aimed at people with internet access at home, rather at those without their own access so they can access government services from terminals in post offices and other public places.
  • As long as my email travels over AT&T equipment it doesn't really matter if my government manages my mailbox. I have to assume the government has access either way. (Same for most other telcos)

  • I could use such a mail account for communications with the government. After all, they're gonna read it anyway, aren't they? Of course, for everything else, I would use one of the many gratis email providers found around the Internet.
  • by seanmcelroy (207852) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:48AM (#35941370) Homepage Journal

    The question "Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?" is pretty irrelevant: if they government can subpoena your mail account for any reason, without notification, you know, to prevent any sort of "terrorism" (against the state, content providers, the prevailing political ideology)... then they already are your de facto mail provider.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @10:07AM (#35941598) Homepage

      Actually, thanks to the completely misnamed USA PATRIOT Act, the US government doesn't even need a subpoena but instead can send a nice totalitarian-sounding "national security letter". The advantage of the NSL over a subpoena is that even if your corporate email provider wanted to fight the NSL, they couldn't do so legally because the recipient of an NSL is expressly forbidden to tell anybody about it, and that "anybody" includes a court of law. By contrast, if for some reason the corporate email provider wanted to stand up for its customers, it could attempt to quash the subpoena and argue its case in court.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The only good news is that they actually send someone round to pick up a physical CD. Hilarious, I know.

        I would trust my government to be my e-mail provider for official correspondence. In fact, it would be kind of convenient.

    • by sjames (1099)

      That's why you run your own mail server. They can still subpoena it, but they can't do so without alerting you.

  • The deliver my netflix DVDs back and forth. My rent payments. And so on.

    Why not my email too?

    Obviously things I want to hide from the government aren't going to go to or from such an email. Just like I probably wouldn't send my kidnap ransom demands via registered mail.

  • by Dishwasha (125561) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @09:51AM (#35941406)

    We already do....http://www.usps.com. Now the key thing is that USPS is a mail transport. At any time given appropriate legal action, they are authorized to read your mail. The question is, what do you choose to do to protected the contents of your mail knowing that you have an insecure transport? Oh I'm sorry, I forgot that most of the stuff that you send is irrelevant and nobody could give a rat's ass about it. Granted, electronic mail can be copied and archived for many years with minimal cost where as archiving copies of physical mail requires significant resource investment. So now you have to decide what to do to your mail knowing that you have an insecure transport where your information can be cheaply duplicated and stored for many years. Then the biggest question has to be asked, what will the Malaysian government do to people that make their mail difficult if not impossible to read by an unintended party?

  • The widespread availability of free email services really makes this unnecessary, but a free, verified by Uncle Sam email address would be very useful. Unfortunately, I fear that if the US Government offered email, it would just make life easier for process servers and law enforcement while doing little of real value for citizens.

  • by shish (588640) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @10:01AM (#35941516) Homepage

    Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?

    Not personally, but if they're only offering this as a backup for people who don't have their own address already, it seems like a great idea

  • I don't think that word means what you think it means.

    For several reasons, in fact.

  • There are plenty of free email services that anyone could get if they had internet. Getting free email with no way to access it would be useless.
    • True, but this could also be a good first step. You could provide dial-up that only accesses .gov domains and your government issued POP3. It would be borderline free assuming they already had a modem... which is less likely now a days.

  • I have a few Email addresses. Each has its own purpose. One for people I just meet on the Net, one for business-type communication, etc. Why not one for use with the government? I'd use it -only- for comm with the government. The only problem with that (as with ANY Email) is that there's no way to be sure your recipient has indeed received your message. Sure, read receipts, but they don't tell you who received it, just that someone did...somewhere.

    If I'm going to use Email, I want it to be properly
  • "Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?"

    Does it matter who provides it? Our government, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Stupidity, the NSA, not one provides email to the slaves. It does not seem to stop them from accessing them anyway.
  • Not trust a government corporation not to read my mail? What country in the world has a government run corporation where the government doesn't have access to private communication? Clearly, the US Post Office has nothing to do with the U.S. Government!

    As has been mentioned above, email is inherently insecure. It's broadcast out in the open and can be read by anyone either with access to the server or simply by snooping traffic coming out of a given port. It's been known for centuries that even traditional,

    • by xiando (770382)

      As also mentioned above, if you wish to keep your words absolutely secure, PGP (or the open alternative, GPG) is easily available to encrypt your potentially damning script.

      GPG is not a solution to anything. I have been using it since the 90s, I encourage others to use it and I explain why encrypting e-mail is important the best way I can. It's been years and less than one percent of those I communicate with use it. The reality today is that the majority of people would vote for a law which requires everyone to have a camera in all rooms in their home and they would have no problem having such cameras in their own homes.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @10:21AM (#35941768)

    I don't really think that is the correct question. Perhaps we should be asking the question "Do we want to continue to pay for governments sending us physical mail rather than using more efficient technology?"

    There is nothing going on here that requires you to use this email address for your own personal communications.

  • ... would you trust a big greedy corporation to be your email provider?
    • It's a lot easier to switch from one "big greedy corporation" to another than to switch from one government to another. Elections mean nothing when both candidates' platforms agree on a point with which a voter disagrees, such as the U.S. Republican and Democratic parties agreeing on expanding the scope of copyright.
  • Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?

    For government correspondence? of course.
    Just use something else for everything else like you do now. Maybe set up e-mail forwarding so you don't always have to check it.

  • I'm fine with the government giving me a e-mail address which is only and specifically used to communicate with the government. I wouldn't use it for anything else, though.
  • by crf00 (1048098) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @11:34AM (#35942760) Homepage
    I am from Malaysia. The problem for this project is more complicated actually. There are several concerns that we as citizens of Malaysia are worry about:

    1. The project is run by a public company named Tricubes. The company is under financial difficulty and is listed under GN3 in the Malaysia stock exchange market (which means near bankruptcy). Because of this announcement, the share price of Tricubes raised from RM0.055 to RM0.325 within a week - a whopping 491% increase.

    2. Tricubes claim that the RM50 million investment is a private investment. Citizens however believe that the government will eventually pay a huge amount of service fees to Tricubes.

    3. A simple analysis on the domain shows that the domain myemail.my is merely using Microsoft Windows Live Mail as the back end provider. It is hard to believe that a service that directly use the domains.live.com API can cost that much, not less to say the entire potential vendor lock-in by Microsoft to this email infrastructure.

    4. Tricubes will charge 50 cents (RM0.50) for every email sent. Do some calculation and you can tell how much it will cost the government to make an announcement by sending one email to each of the 27 million citizens in Malaysia.

    From the facts that we have, it is obvious that there is a high possibility that this is yet another corruption of the government to let people with internal connection make free money.

    While I understand that building an email system do cost money, it is absurd to spend RM50m in something that directly uses Windows Live services and provide nothing more than that. And it is even more absurd to charge that much for an email delivery that is essentially free. Even though we have the freedom to decline this project by not using this service, it is impossible for us to stop the corrupted government from sending costly emails to our inactive accounts, thus giving tax payers' money to Tricubes.
  • I don't think this is such a terrible idea. As long as they do not prevent you from using other email addresses for personal correspondence, it seems that having a government mailbox for your dealings with the government might actually be a good thing. I'd like to see the government actually prevent these mailboxes from sending or receiving mail from outside the government network as well. This could help prevent phishing attempts and other scams.
  • Malaysia is a fascist country.

    1. They destroyed a religious sects property (Sky Kingdom) because it was considered an apostate offshoot of Islam and imprisoned people involved with it for YEARS!
    2. Fat kids are being given bad grades in school now as a matter of national policy - it is for "health". One kid could eat total junk and be a couch potato and have a fast metabolism and be left alone, another could eat well, exercise, be fat, and be given bad grades, because he "chose" to be "unhealthy". Ironically

  • I would not trust the government to be my only mail provider.

    I do think it might be nice to have a walled garden government account. Every citizen gets an account, only government agencies can use it for official business. No spam. Secured. The government today won't do business for most things over e-mail because it goes over the big bad internet, and this could change it, and make a lot of things faster and more efficient. Since it's correspondence with the government in the first place I don't care

  • by bmo (77928)

    >Would you trust your government to be your mail provider?

    Sure. Why not? Encrypt it. Send it. No worries.

    Wait, you're not encrypting your sensitive mail in the first place? When it can be picked up along the way by any Joe Schmoe MTA hop or Echelon type setup? Then you're an idiot. If you do this with a government that might kill you (Malaysia is not one of them) then you deserve to be a Darwin Award winner.

    Unencrypted email is the same thing as a post card, and you are a fool if you think any dif

  • Well not in Malaysia thats for sure. The population is locked down tight with ID cards. This is a pretty obvious ploy to encourage people to only use email accounts which are tied to their IC number.

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