"It wasn't secret, we just didn't need to tell anyone about it" said Sid Heaslip, Programme manager at Opentext discussing the TOP SECRET FACEBOOK OF POWER that his company made for the G20 summit in 2010, exclusively for the leaders of the world's most powerful nations to network with.
Despite keeping the network codenamed "V20" under wraps at the time, Opentext execs are now keen to discuss the world's most elite social network, not least because the aura of power and secrecy around the summit gives their cloud-based document-sharing software a little more sex appeal than the average cloud-based document sharing software package enjoys.
Opentext spoke about their G20 social network last week at a conference in London where they were meeting public sector players in an attempt to get them interested in their social work-flow solutions.
The Facebook of Power
At the Toronto based G20 summit in 2010, the men and women holding the purse strings of the world were forced to get on the Facebook-style network to access documents and communicate with each other, because email was strictly banned. Only 125 members were accepted - the finance and deputy finance ministers of the twenty countries along with a "sherpa" or guide for each member state. 55 of them decided to upload profile pictures too, giving the financial negotiations a more personal touch. It's highly likely that the remaining 60-odd invites were parcelled out to the global premiers, which means that it is likely, though not certain Barack Obama was/is on there.
Users on the network were able to upload documents, read documents, message each other, blog, have live instant message conversations and see who was talking about topics they were interested in.
"The idea is that there are communities around concepts - in the case of the G20 that could be where to stay in Toronto but it could also be hey - we've got this climate change summit coming up what are we going to do about it," said Heaslip.
A "pyramid of privacy" allowed users to finely grade how widely they shared information. Opentext turned the software around in 3 months.
It's not just global power-mongers who like to share documents on secure cloud-based software, it is used by other SECRET people, the Register was informed.
"Lots of the world's most private and high security organisations use our software. Behind the barbed wire and high fences, these organisations need to communicate within themselves," Simon Lill, OpenText head of sales told the Reg.
"We have several customers who require very secure networks."
But these customers are so secret that he couldn't tell us who they were.
Opentext refused to disclose whether any of their top-secret ultra-secure networks had suffered attacks in the past few years, but gave a sketch outline on how secure the systems were.
"The main strategy is decoupling it from the internet. All our software is highly-secure, penetration tested by security experts," said OpenText honcho Simon Ward, adding that they have different solutions for different clients - depending on whether the documents are about bin collection rotas in Surrey or TOP-SECRET things.
"There are lots of elements in security, we're just one piece in the secure environment, our customers also work with RIM, Fujitsu, we just drop in the software," said Ward.
Apparently the Canadian government got the world's finance minsters onto the network by simply refusing to send them emails. Jennifer Daubeny, formerly of the Canadian department for Foreign Affairs and International Trade told the Reg:
"We sent one email with some documents, a second saying that this was the last time we'd email them any documents and a third saying that this was the last email they'd get from us and that they had to sign on to the network if they wanted to see anything."
"These are not necessarily the people most comfortable with online sharing tools," she explained.
The people who chose not to adopt it were the French. Though it was used successfully in Canada and then at the G20 in Korea, the French decided not to employ the software for the 2011 G20 summit they hosted for "undisclosed reasons".
It will be used for the next G20 summit in Mexico. ®