In principle, the “network is the system” idea has a lot of merit. The benefits of having all your data stored in some reliable, secure, redundant database that’s centrally managed and hooking into it with whatever device is at hand — be it a desktop machine or a cell phone — has a lot of appeal. Keeping a system available on the net, up to date with fixes and patches, and secure is no trivial job. It’s exactly the sort of thing that should be left to someone who is a professional at it.
[Revised: Less than 24 hours after I posted this, I received a phone call from a salesforce.com representative, apologizing for the misuse of my information. My understanding is that one of their partners is to blame; that the misuse originated outside their organization. I was looking forward to receiving more details in an e-mail, but in preparing to let their mail pass my spam defences, I messed up — and all mail has been bounced from late Friday through most of the weekend. Hopefully they will re-send it so I can add more factual information to this. At this point, it’s clear that at least Salesforce takes this sort of misuse very seriously, and I have accepted their apology.]