Oracle is Said to Help China Find Dissidents and Jail Minorities

Oracle Corp. stands accused of selling analytics software to Chinese police forces. Is that a problem? Well, it might be—if that software’s being used to hunt down political dissidents and lock up “undesirable” minorities such as Uyghur Muslims.

In the latest twist of the China narrative, the would-be savior of TikTok is defends itself against strong press implications of violating U.S. trade restrictions. Not to mention conveniently ignoring its own stated values as a corporate citizen.

Cybersecurity Live - Boston

But is there a There there? In today’s SB Blogwatch, we dig in.

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Plus: GIGO proof.

When Larry Met 习

What’s the craic? Mara Hvistendahl, Tatiana Dias and W. Paul Smith report—“How Oracle Sells Repression in China”:

 Police … were sitting on mounds of data collected through invasive means: financial records, travel information, vehicle registrations, social media, and surveillance camera footage. … They needed sophisticated analytic software. Enter American business computing giant Oracle.

So explained a China-based Oracle engineer at a developer conference. … One slide shows Oracle software enabling Liaoning police to create network graphs based on hotel registrations … and “identify potential suspects” — which in China often means dissidents. … Oracle also boasted that its data security services were used by … police in Xinjiang, the site of a genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and other ethnic groups. … Oracle employees also promoted company technology for China’s “Police Cloud,” a big data platform implemented as part of the emerging surveillance state.

The documents paint a disturbing picture of a tech company sacrificing its professed values to push its data analytics products in China, where the most formidable collector of data is the Chinese government. … In addition to human rights concerns, the documents point to profound national security questions: One of the military-oriented presentations cites Oracle’s U.S. defense work in an apparent effort to win Chinese cloud computing contracts.

Oracle spokesperson Jessica Moore said the materials … were “aspirational business development ideas.” … The company is not selling data analytics software “for any of the end uses implied in the materials,” she said. “Such activities would be considered inconsistent with Oracle’s core Corporate Citizenship Values.” … She stated further that Oracle [ensures] its exports comply with trade restrictions. … “Any such transactions would have to be in full compliance with U.S. and applicable export control and economic sanctions laws and regulations.”

But then they go on to dig up much more evidence to demolish Oracle’s PR position. Mike Masnick—@mmasnick—is not at all surprised:

 This is both the least surprising, and most shocking story I’ve read in a while.

But isn’t it just business? Rick Schumann waxes excoriating:

 If, say, a U.S. gun manufacturer is selling boatloads of guns to a country that they’re not prohibited by the U.S. government to sell guns to, but that the gun manufacturer knows the government of that country is oppressive and will use their guns to subjugate and/or kill unarmed civilians, it’s perfectly okay because it’s ‘just business’? … I consider [that] reasoning to be toxic. … Software can be a weapon as much as guns are.

We have a word for companies like Oracle: ‘collaborators’. Enabling evil acts makes you an accessory to evil acts.

Mixing metaphors like a BOSS, it’s Patchouli Woollahra—@PatchouliW:

 Well now. who knew the fox was eating the chickens in the coop. No respect from me for Oracle, not now, or ever.

There’s always someone who has to bring up Hitler. This time, it’s klipclop:

 IBM sold technology to the Nazis. … It was tech to help track all of the Jews.

So these for profit tech companies will happily participate in human suffering and crime if there’s a dollar in it.

But Marc Jackson—@munixx—can’t believe what he’s reading:

 China does not need Oracle for this. This is an example of how desperate these journo’s are to ‘cook’ up a story out of nothing. They’ve never worked in large scale IT deployments, pushing the technology into complex new areas.

And IdanceNmyCar isn’t dancing now:

 Bingo. … The whole piece reads like a SJW rant with basically everything being said bitterly obvious for anyone who understands “business ethics” or the lack thereof.

I don’t know what to think anymore. @halhod is sympathetic (I think):

 US government opposition to TikTok was always deeply confused, given the utter by-design leakiness the systems that hold data on all American citizens, available to any CCP member at a low price in a few clicks. The Oracle story isn’t the exception, it’s the rule.

But how are citizens supposed to grok the “approved” China narrative? Mark mark l 2’s words:

 Where you could reasonably argue that Huawei kit on 5G networks could be a threat to national security if there are backdoors in the kit. It never really washed with the general public that Tiktok is a threat to national security. Even if the Chinese government was spying on its users, the information would be of little use to them considering its an app primarily used by teenager to share dancing videos and memes.

Where’s Tom Cruise when you need him? u/FreedomVegan is craving bacon:

 Ya’ll getting some serious Minority Report vibes from this or is it just me?

Meanwhile, Laxator2 says it’s not only happening in China:

 Using Oracle’s software is its own form of repression.

And Finally:

Rick enters the uncanny valley of “restored” 4K: Proof, if proof were needed, of the GIGO maxim

Hat tip: Rob Beschizza

Previously in And Finally

You have been reading SB Blogwatch by Richi Jennings. Richi curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites … so you don’t have to. Hate mail may be directed to @RiCHi or [email protected]. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE. 30.

Image sauce: Hartmann Studios for Oracle (cc:by)

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Richi Jennings

Richi Jennings is a foolish independent industry analyst, editor, and content strategist. A former developer and marketer, he’s also written or edited for Computerworld, Microsoft, Cisco, Micro Focus, HashiCorp, Ferris Research, Osterman Research, Orthogonal Thinking, Native Trust, Elgan Media, Petri, Cyren, Agari, Webroot, HP, HPE, NetApp on Forbes and Bizarrely, his ridiculous work has even won awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors, ABM/Jesse H. Neal, and B2B Magazine.

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