Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 14:43:07 -0500 (EST)
From:"Linux Pipeline Newsletter" <>
Subject: [LXP] Linux Pipeline - 03.08.2006 - Cisco's China Spin Linux Pipeline Newsletter | Cisco's China Spin | 03.08.2006
Linux Pipeline Newsletter

In This Issue:
  • Editor's Note: Cisco's China Spin
  • Top Linux News
        - Firefox Whips Internet Explorer In Vulnerability Tally
        - OASIS Forms Group To Support OpenDocument Format
        - Mozilla Confirms Firefox Taking In Millions Of Google
        - More News...
  • Editor's Picks
        - Despite Censorship, U.S. Firms Help Chinese Get More Information
        - Supporters Of ICANN-VeriSign Agreement Challenge Critics
        - Q&A: Got Data? Get A Data Privacy Plan
        - More Picks...
  • Voting Booth: Is DRM DOA?
  • Get More Out Of Linux Pipeline
  • Manage Your Newsletter Subscription

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    Editor's Note: Cisco's China Spin

    Last week, we ran a story here that I think deserves a second look (or a first, if you missed it the first time) along with some additional information on the subject that you might find interesting. Most, if not all, of you participate in the Open Source community in some way; you attach great value to the relationship between Free Software and other, even more fundamental human freedoms. That is why I consider stories concerning privacy, freedom of _expression, and so on a core part of Linux Pipeline's regular content.

    And in this case, at the very least, I would ask that you consider whether the company I'm about to discuss deserves your respect or (especially) your cash -- based, I hope, on your own assessment of the evidence, rather than on mine.

    I'm talking about Cisco Systems. More specifically, I'm referring to Cisco's deep, ongoing, and completely unapologetic business dealings with China's police apparatus.

    By now, most of you know at least something about the uproar involving our home-grown Gang of Four: The U.S. tech companies accused of going too far in their business dealings with China's one-party police state. Yet only three of the four -- Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo -- are mass-market household names; as a result, both the politicians and the press have focused almost entirely upon their role in the controversy.

    The fourth company, Cisco, is less well-known outside of the IT industry. The company has largely avoided both the wrath of Congress and the media spotlight -- not because it is any less guilty than its counterparts, but rather because it's a less tempting target for politicians whose commitment to Chinese democracy is best measured by the amount of face-time it gets them on the evening news.

    Now, Cisco is angling to complete its great escape, with a little help from PR props such as the not-quite-mea-culpa it issued last week, by spinning away its Chinese "problem." The press, and especially the IT press, simply cannot allow that to happen: Cisco's direct business dealings with Chinese police authorities are, in my opinion, more blatant, more destructive, and ultimately far more disgraceful than anything Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo could possibly have done.

    Don't take my word on it: Journalist Rebecca MacKinnon, who spent nearly a decade working for CNN's Chinese bureau and who continues to cover China's war against its own citizens as a research fellow at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has done a thorough job chronicling Cisco's knowing involvement with the Chinese police apparatus in her own blog. Frankly, after reading her coverage, all of which I consider well-documented and highly credible, you may find yourself thinking twice about doing business with Cisco.

    A few of MacKinnon's blog entries deal specifically with Cisco's ongoing and remarkably enthusiastic dealings with the Chinese Public Security Bureau, an organization that has harassed, beaten, tortured, and murdered pro-democracy activists on a scale that invites comparison to the Soviet Cheka, Nazi Gestapo, or other familiar names in the history of modern thuggery. Her most compelling coverage of this topic, however, focuses on Cisco's protests against author Ethan Gutmann's book, Losing The New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire, and Betrayal, and Gutmann's devastating response to those protests.

    Gutmann's book includes a chapter that paints (to put it mildly) a less than flattering portrait of the Cisco's Chinese operations. When Cisco claimed that Gutmann lacked "a shred of evidence" to back his allegations, MacKinnon reported, Gutmann offered up one of Cisco's own brochures from a 2002 trade show in Beijing which includes a photo of "a Cisco exhibition booth full of products clearly aimed for use by police and other public security forces."

    In addition, Gutmann recounts his own "conversation with a Cisco salesman whose sales pitch included how Cisco's products help police conduct internet surveillance." The salesman, he said, "confirmed that the Chinese police could even remotely check if the suspect had built or contributed to a website in the last three months, access the suspect's surfing history, and read his email." In addition to a transcript of the conversation, MacKinnon said, Gutmann emailed her examples of the evidence Cisco insisted he did not have -- and it consists mostly of brochures, PowerPoint slides, and other Cisco sales collateral.

    In the same blog entry, MacKinnon includes an extended excerpt from Gutmann's book. Here's a part of that excerpt:
    As Cisco's cameras recorded our conversation, Zhou Li, a systems engineer from Cisco's Shanghai Branch, gave me an enthusiastic sales pitch for Cisco's "policenet" technology, which had just been launched in China. He explained that Cisco's diagram of the policeman linked back to information nodes is technically accurate, but it didn't capture the full scope of what Cisco had accomplished. We are not just talking about accessing a suspect's driving record here, he pointed out; Cisco provides a secure connection to provincial security databases, allowing for thorough cross-checking and movement tracing.

    A Chinese policeman or PSB agent using Cisco equipment can remotely access the suspect's danwei or work unit, thereby accessing reports on the individual's political behavior and family history. Even fingerprints, photographs and other imaging information would be available with a tap on the screen. (This wasn't just a sales pitch: according to Chinese sources, Cisco has built a structure for a national PSB database, with real-time updating and mobile-ready capabilities, and as of June 2003, it was already resident in every province of China, excepting Sichuan). As I questioned Zhou further, the Cisco salesman confirmed that the Chinese police could even remotely check if the suspect had built or contributed to a website in the last three months, access the suspect's surfing history, and read his email. It was just a question of bandwidth.
    Cisco, notes Gutmann, even has a catchy name for this technology: "Policenet."

    Another MacKinnon blog entry covers Cisco's pathetic attempts to spin Gutmann's and other reporters' discoveries about the company's above-and-beyond dealings with the Chinese police apparatus. In spite of their verbiage, these all boil down to a claim that because Cisco did not break U.S. law, its business relationship with this bunch of murderous chekists is perfectly acceptable and, indeed, exactly what any bunch of New Economy go-getters would do in a similar situation.

    Such claims are, frankly, beneath contempt -- as is virtually every other aspect of Cisco's relationship with the agents of repression in China. If our politicians won't recognize on their own how much more dangerous Cisco's activities are than anything Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo might have done, then it's up to the media to shame them into doing so. And while Cisco might manage to ride out any additional PR unpleasantness, and ultimately get back to business as usual with its Chinese associates, there's one thing that would change the company's attitude instantly: a decision that all of you have better places to spend your IT budgets. Weigh the evidence, consider what's at stake, and then decide for yourselves.

    Have a great week, and stay in touch!

    Matt McKenzie
    Editor, Linux Pipeline

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    Top Linux News

    Firefox Whips Internet Explorer In Vulnerability Tally
    Symantec changes the way it tallies potential security gaps in browsers and concludes that Mozilla Firefox has fewer vulnerabilities.

    OASIS Forms Group To Support OpenDocument Format
    The new group will provide expertise and resources "to educate the marketplace on the value of the ODF Standard."

    Mozilla Confirms Firefox Taking In Millions Of Google Dollars
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    Apple Fixes Critical Safari Bug, 16 Other Flaws
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    Browser Plug-in Warns Of Surfing Risks Before Clicking
    A company founded by several MIT engineers has launched free Internet Explorer and Firefox add-ons that reveal dangerous Web sites listed by popular search engines.

    Microsoft Receives 5,000th U.S. Patent
    Patented technology allows gamers to watch games from the sidelines and control what they see.

    Six Apart To Sell Business-Friendly Blogging Tools
    The maker of Movable Type blogging software will sell a version with business-friendly features as more companies run their own blogs.

    No Backdoor In Vista, Microsoft Promises
    The BBC says Windows Vista sports a secret back door for use by stealthy government agents. Not surprisingly, Microsoft comes out swinging to squash the rumor.

    McNealy Seeks HP-Sun Unix Union
    In a brief memo HP's Mark Hurd, Scott McNealy urged him to agree to converge HP-UX with Sun's Solaris 10. But some think it's more of a PR stunt than a real offer.

    Editor's Picks

    Despite Censorship, U.S. Firms Help Chinese Get More Information
    Advocates say they don't want Yahoo, Google or Microsoft MSN to leave China, but they want the portals to manage information about users with an eye on protecting human rights.

    Supporters Of ICANN-VeriSign Agreement Challenge Critics
    ICANN Friday challenged complaints that its agreement with Verisign is anticompetitive with a list of companies and organizations that support the decision.

    Q&A: Got Data? Get A Data Privacy Plan
    Jim Dempsey of The Center for Democracy & Technology discusses corporate data privacy policy and offers his advice on sound data gathering and management practices -- advice companies need to hear, even if they don't plan to follow it.

    Search Engines Are At the Center Of Privacy Debate
    The more user information gathered by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft MSN, the more often they will become the targets of governments.

    Voting Booth: Is DRM DOA?

    Cast Your Vote Now!
    This is the final week for our poll asking what you think about the Sony BMG Entertainment case and its possible impact on the use of digital rights management (DRM) technology. Will Sony's deal settling the class-action lawsuits filed against it scare the rest of the industry straight? Don't miss out -- cast your vote!

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