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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Disabling chat logging to further someone's agenda

I just remembered another item from my recent past which might be used as a way to tell when a company has jumped the shark, turned evil, or otherwise lost its way. This one is easy to spot, since it comes in the form of a decree that all chat logs will be disabled so that things don't get recorded. That way, if it's not being recorded, it can't be subpoenaed later.

There's a substantial difference here if you really pay attention. They're not saying "don't do evil stuff". They're more focused on "keep evil stuff off the record". This makes sense, considering that actually stopping the bad things would be difficult, and flipping bits in computer systems is relatively easy.

Even if the implementation is "logging is now off by default", it still has practical ramifications for ordinary engineers. If you have a conversation with someone over the chat system, it won't get logged. If you need some piece of data later, like if you're trying to piece together a timeline for a postmortem, but you didn't remember to hit the "go on the record" button, it's gone gone gone.

Worse still, if you were using a third-party chat client, you didn't even have the option to "go on the record". That only exists when chatting through the built-in web interface. I hope you had your chat client set to make its own logs, since you sure aren't going to find them anywhere else.

Then again, there is the infamous line "if you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place". When it comes to being evil, I actually agree with that statement. Trippy.