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Microsoft Training May Have Helped Tunisian Regime To Spy On Citizens 129

An anonymous reader writes "A document released in the recent Cablegate leak reveals that Microsoft provided training to the Tunisian Ministries of Justice and the Interior in exchange for exemption from the country's open software policy. These Ministries would soon put the training to use by phishing for the social networking credentials of bloggers, reporters, political activists and protesters. Microsoft's assistance resulted in the sale of 12,000 software licenses to the Tunisian government." The cable itself details the effort Microsoft put into negotiating a deal. Their clear intent was simply expanding into a new market, but the author of the cable was skeptical of the Tunisian government's adherence to its stated goals. Quoting: "In theory, increasing GOT law enforcement capability through IT training is positive, but given heavy-handed GOT interference in the internet, Post questions whether this will expand GOT capacity to monitor its own citizens."
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Microsoft Training May Have Helped Tunisian Regime To Spy On Citizens

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  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by St.Creed ( 853824 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:00PM (#37311364)

    Gates is rich enough. But I'm guessing the local sales rep isn't a billionaire yet.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ge7 ( 2194648 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:09PM (#37311402)
    Well even the summary notes that Microsoft was basically offering them generic computer training. Now slashdot (note that we don't even have article here!) needs a good MS-bashing title - hey, lets go with "Microsoft helped Tunisia to spy on citizen". No, we need to tone it down a little.. what about "Microsoft may have helped Tunisia to spy on citizens"? Good.

    Seriously, all Microsoft knew was giving them computer training. What about we start writing news on how school chemistry classes allow people to make bombs? Or god forbid, cooking tv shows teach you how to use a knife!
  • Re:Wow (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:23PM (#37311460)

    Duh. Welcome to capitalism. If there's a buck to be made, a human life becomes secondary.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:28PM (#37311480)

    Because it gets known now? You don't think MS is the only company that doesn't give half a shit about who they sell to, do you? If there's not an outright embargo (that has to be circumvented somehow), anyone can buy anything if the price is right. Hell, IBM sold computers to the Nazis, knowing quite well just what they will be used for.

    You think any corporation would have acted different in any way? Corporations are the pinnacle of capitalist evolution: Intelligence without conscience.

  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anthony Mouse ( 1927662 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:30PM (#37311486)

    Gates is rich enough. But I'm guessing the local sales rep isn't a billionaire yet.

    No, but that only makes it even worse: That sales rep sold out an entire country's people in exchange for a few grand worth of commissions.

    More to the point, somebody hired a sales rep willing to do that. And that willingness stems from a flaw in Microsoft's business model. The quality and price of their products has never matched their market share; they subsist on inertia and lock-in. The problem with that model is that all it would take to break it is for a single medium-sized country to decide that they would rather spend a billion dollars once to implement all of the APIs, file format converters, migration tools, etc. to make switching from Microsoft to FOSS easy and popular in order to avoid having that same country's government and people continue to pay an even greater amount of money every year to a foreign corporation. The last thing in the world they need is for some oil-rich dictators to conclude that they could implement a feature-complete open-source equivalent of Exchange Server for less than the amount of money their country pays to license it.

    So when Tunisia or China or whoever else comes to Microsoft and makes demands, Microsoft bends. Because Microsoft can't afford for those countries to make the path away from Microsoft's ecosystem simple, well-documented and conspicuous. So yes, you can blame the sales rep who did the deed, but that doesn't change the fact that Microsoft has left itself in the position that it has to yield to crackpot dictators who violate human rights in order to maintain its market dominance.

  • USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by santax ( 1541065 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:49PM (#37311568)
    So, the USA torture practices come to light, the USA illegal wars, the USA illegal everything... and those same guys see MS doing something that might be stupid from a human perspective, but no where near the level of the USA as a country in itself... is pointing the finger???? Man, you guys here still don't get the cables. It's the fucking USA that is the enemy! YES! Even if you are a USA Citizen. I might as well say, especially if you are a US citizen. Those people, that lead your country, not the guy in the White House... are fucking war criminals at best! Do something about it! We (the rest of the world) can't! Prove for once America is about freedom. But think about real freedom for once. Not just freedom on your own continent. The world doesn't turn around you. Let alone the universe. We have one earth and we have to make it together. And right now we are fucking it up. And that fucking up is being orchestrated by a handful very powerful people. Having said that... Peace. We need to stick together. Because our children will hopefully be smarter.
  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @07:50PM (#37311570)
    The linked source even says that Microsoft agreed to help train handicapped workers to telecommute so they could get employment. MS: being evil by helping all those damned cripples. The whole summary is a massive sensationalist attempt to create a "scandal" where none really exists, or rather where no proof of one really exists (maybe MS helped Tunisia, maybe they didn't.) Otherwise, this is just a pretty standard trade deal for IT software. Not illegal, probably not even immoral at all. Maybe there is more to it, but I don't think so. Computer training is not hard to find, these days, what MS was really selling was the licenses (which don't help Tunisia with it's crackdown at all) and what MS got was Tunisia using less pirated software. Oh, and note the part where all this happened before the trouble, and it was a five-year in the making deal.
  • by tvlinux ( 867035 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @08:02PM (#37311644)
    MS is a business, It does not care about people, It would sell Windows licenses and database to the Devil if it could make a profit.
  • Re:Which is it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by I(rispee_I(reme ( 310391 ) on Monday September 05, 2011 @09:35PM (#37312058) Journal

    I think the training was more along these lines [] than "Ctrl-X cuts, ctrl-V pastes..."

  • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Tuesday September 06, 2011 @12:16AM (#37312712)
    It means that government contracts won't be awarded to cheaper hardware based on arm processors because that's not windows compatible. The change in policy means all government contracts must use windows compatible hardware instead of cheaper stuff that only runs open source. And as long as the hardware supports it microsoft has the option to bribe/leverage their software onto the hardware.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead