To put it plain and simple, Governor Sarah Palin's email accounts were hacked and i'm assuming 99% of all Americans over 18 know about this. For international readers, the email accounts of Governor Sarah Palin, vice presidential candidate for the Republican party, were hacked. The hacker, an amateur, posted both the results and the attack vector online to 4chan, an internet forum, which led to the quick discovery of his identity. It turns out that he is the son of a democratic Senator, although since nothing has gone to court yet, no one knows what the penalties are.
I direct you to this soundbite from the McCain campaign:
"This is a shocking invasion of the governor's privacy and a violation of law."
Indeed, one reason why it's illegal is to protect people from using such private information to harass her and her family, by using cell phones numbers and other private information retrieved out of the email accounts. Most importantly though, this highlights the dangers of having private information leaked to anyone.
Which brings me to my next point. Sarah Palin should be impeached and removed from all political office. I direct you to the information leaked about the attack.
If you have a look through those emails, some of them are personal or friendly, but in between there are numerous emails regarding State business. Anyone who works at Red Hat and is forced to use the bloatware called collaboration software, instead of being allowed to use a more convenient GMail account should automatically understand why this is a severe problem.
Yahoo email is neither private nor secure. The government can do all the handwaving magic it sees fit, but nothing will change the fact that Yahoo is an international company that presents a very high target to hackers. Thus Yahoo is 100% insecure. Furthermore, Yahoo has full access to emails they host and transmit. Therefore, there is no privacy, and any sensitive government issues could be revealed to the whole world. When you consider the information a VP is privy to, let alone a governor, the potential for misuse is scary. If you want to talk about radicals destroying a large nation for fun or profit, this is the way to go. If you want to discuss shady deals between politicians being revealed, carelessness like this will only make life much easier. Each state has an IT infrastructure as does the US Government, which is secured by one of the best security systems in the world. Using a Yahoo account is downright foolish.
Furthermore, privacy is also there to protect individuals from other malicious individuals. It's tragic, but a matter of ironic justice that Sarah Palin's family is suffering from the exact issues that are brought up when discussing the importance of privacy and data protection.
Yahoo mail is also run outside of the government systems. If you think the data retention policies of the Whitehouse have been bad in the past 8 years, just wait till Sarah Palin comes to power. They won't even exist! Data retention is the law for many reasons, least of all to track the doings of public officers and employees of public corporations. These rules are there to protect the American people and anyone doing business with Americans. While discussions about the data retention policies are reasonable, the bottom line is, without one, our individual rights are doomed. By using Yahoo mail, Sarah Palin has given the middle finger to the systems that keep politicians on the straight and narrow. As a politician who 'cleaned up' Alaska, she should understand this better than most politicians.
My take on this is that Palin didn't do this out of any malicious intent herself. I can imagine that she found the state provided system slow, complicated and onerous, so she decided to use an 'easier' solution. Given the magnitude of discovery, in most places i've worked, anyone who screwed up so bad would probably be fired. There is plenty of room here to make the 'ignorant/unintelligent soccer mom' argument, but she is still an elected politician, which means even a soccer mom would be smarter than that....
Despite this, it's clear that Sarah Palin knows very little about technology, the Internet, and most importantly the laws surrounding it. What ever reason she had for not using a state provided email address shows she thinks some need of hers trumps years of experience that IT professionals have had with privacy and security. On a personal note, it's insulting and disgusting. On a broader note, Sarah Palin is not fit to be a politician in the 21st century, let alone Vice President. Finally, it's clear she's doing something very wrong in Alaska already. She needs to be impeached.