Cyber-DonationsPhilanthropy or Theft?
With the recent surge in charitable donations around the country, I wonder if this penchant for giving will spill over into PC philanthropy, i.e., sharing unused computing power and hard disk space for the benefit of medical and other research.With the recent surge in charitable donations around the country, I wonder if this penchant for giving will spill over into PC philanthropy, i.e., sharing unused computing power and hard disk space for the benefit of medical and other research. There are already several projects out there that allow you to do this, often simply by installing peer-to-peer software similar to Napster and Gnutella that initiates when a screensaver is activated. Recent high-profile examples include Intels collaboration with United Devices, of Austin, Texas, in a study to develop better drug treatments for cancer. The essence of these projects is to allow almost anyone with a computer to collaborate on profound social issues by helping provide some of the many millions of hours of data processing cycles needed for research. But if you are sitting in your office thinking "Wowthis is such an easy way to help a great causeIm in," hold your horses, techno-cowboy. Unless you obtain authorization from your employer before using its computers to get involved in such projects, you could find yourself facing legal problems, even jail time.
Consider the case of David McOwen, a former computer administrator at DeKalb Technical College in Clarkston, Ga. In December of 1999, McOwen reportedly loaded an unauthorized distributed computing programused for conducting software encryption researchonto a few hundred campus computers. When school officials finally confronted him about this over a year later, he resigned. Now, according to press reports, he is facing possible criminal charges, including 30 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines under the Georgia Computer Systems Protection Act.