Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sorry for the delay, Jon

I just came across this on Jon Callas' CTO Corner just now (11 PM GMT, when I started this draft). I had a busy day Friday (obviously so did Jon), but on a totally different subject. By the time I got around to checking for comments to moderate (24 hours ago), I noticed there were several (contrary to some, I really am not sitting here trying to build a following ... read if you want, or don't--your choice, obviously). A bunch of them were either 'you don't know what you're talking about' (which is fine if they want to think that-- I posted their comments anyway) or they were 'what about X' comments which I already answered in later posts.

I saw John Dasher's (PGP Product Management) comment right away, published it, and elevated it to a main post/entry. There was a lot of negative hype around the company, apparently, and I did not want to have anything to do with a negative impact to the company [If you don't believe me on that point, all I ask is that you please read the other topics]. My main point was that this feature was not published well enough (Jon and I seem to agree on that).

I want to make this clear though: the time it took to get Jon's comment in the list (as it is now and mirrored here) was unrelated to the content in his comment, or my opinion of him in general. Read it for yourself; I'm not against differing opinions or even insults. Just note that I responded to him as well.

Jon wrote:
"As I started asking about what we did and did not do to document the feature, I heard several times, 'I thought we documented that?'

"So our product manager went off to find where it is documented. We found that it was documented in five places, including the release notes for each product (client and server) and the 'What's New?' section of each. Okay, we could do better, but a feature listed in 'What's New?' could hardly be termed 'barely documented.'"
I have pointed out several times that there is a difference between documented and publicly documented. Now it's publicly accessible, but when this whole ordeal started out, that same link required a customer ID and password. You can read how I did work with the vendor, PGP Corp, (how their support people were not well aware of the feature) and read how they were satisfied with the way things were documeted BEFORE they made the documentation available to non-customers.

Jon also wrote:
"In the world I live in, the world of cryptographers-are-security-geeks, the word 'backdoor' is a fighting word. It is especially a fighting word when modified with 'intentional.' It means we sold out. It means we've lied to you.

The word 'backdoor' is thus a slur. It is a nasty word. There a plenty of nasty words that insult someone's race, national origin, religion, and so on. I will give no examples of them. 'The B-Word,' as I will call it, is one of those slurs. It is not to be used lightly."
I agree that "backdoor" has a negative connotation (I'd be stupid to ignore that now), but I disagree that that the connotation should exist (and arguably so do others). And most importantly, I did not use the words "intentional" + "backdoor" to mean anything aggressive or fighting. In fact, I replaced "backdoor" with "bypass" on the first post (and nearly any other post where I don't give an explanation like this one). Clearly from the beginning, I did not imply an "alternative means of access" like the conspiracy theories claim. Shoot, there are even other beneficial "backdoors" in PGP products, like the ADK (additional decryption key, such as used with Blakely-Shamir key splitting techniques). Those are backdoors in the academic sense, just not in the paranoid, socio-political sense. The question at hand is: "for whom does the door open?" And PGP Corp's official stance is: "never for an adversary or warring faction". All I have tried to point out is that it could possibly (no matter how unlikely you think it might occur) open for a well-timed cat-burglar.

I was surprised when Jon wrote:
"I wrote a tart reply and posted it to his second note. As I am writing this, 15 hours have passed and although he has approved other people's replies, he hasn't approved mine.

Murphy's law being what it is, it's possible that by the time I dot the 'i’s', cross the 't’s', and get this article posted on my CTO Corner, he may have printed my reply -- but it isn't there now, I just checked. Nonetheless, it angers me immensely that someone would tell lies and insult my personal integrity and the integrity of my company.

I know why he won't post it -- I point out facts, show that he has intentionally misstated facts, knowingly defamed PGP Corporation, and show that he has not lived up to the very ethical standards for which he criticizes other people. He accuses us of technical and ethical violations that he knows are false.

Therefore, I am posting my reply to him below the break. These are the facts Securology doesn't have the courage to post."
What can I say, Jon? I guess to be fair (and if nothing else following the excellent precedent you have set), I apologize for not moderating comments sooner. Perhaps I should have emailed you so I could have been more open to your time lines. I do hope that you believe me, but I accept that you may not. I ask that you consider how I have published and linked back to everything you have offered (and then some). And I ask that you consider how the ethics truly apply here (and for what it's worth, I did mull over whether to post or not to post on this subject for months after I last discussed the issue with your employees-- I even asked other people whose ethics I trust for their input prior).

I do understand exactly why you would want to jump the gun to believe I was editing you out. It's an "everybody has an opinion" world, one where people can choose what content to keep or throw away. So, I cannot fault you for your response. [If I was in your position, I'd probably do exactly the same thing you did for my employer in an official "PR" type letter: acknowledge, compliment, and trivialize in 200 words or less. It was well executed.]

Finally, Jon also wrote:
"The mark of a good company is how you deal with issues, not the issues themselves."
I think Jon did an exceptional job in his response. He was down-to-earth, humble, yet showed great pride in his company and work. He acknowledged "opportunities" (as the American corporate culture calls them) for improvement, as well as strengths. I think we agree on 90% of the details, and things are improving. Sure, some of the details may be over-hyped; that's not my fault and I still hold to my position.

I would like to believe, Jon, that if we met up in the real world, we would be on the same page.

The door is open for more of your opinions.

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