Sep 07, 2001

Your Face Is Not a Bar Code
Human Justice

'Face recognition systems in public places, however, are a matter for serious concern. The issue recently came to broad public attention when it emerged that fans attending the Super Bowl had unknowingly been matched against a database of alleged criminals, and when the city of Tampa deployed a face-recognition system in the nightlife district of Ybor City. But current and proposed uses of face recognition are much more widespread, as the resources at the end of this article demonstrate in detail. The time to consider the acceptability of face recognition in public places is now, before the practice becomes entrenched and people start getting hurt.'

Excellent article, full of resources and links on this topic, including some well-thought-out arguments. One pet peeve of mine is well addressed in the "responses to arguments" section:

'"What do you have to hide?"'

'This line is used against nearly every attempt to protect personal privacy, and the response in each case is the same. People have lots of valid reasons, personal safety for example, to prevent particular others from knowing particular information about them. Democracy only works if groups can organize and develop their political strategies in seclusion from the government, and from any established interests they might be opposing. This includes, for example, the identities of people who might travel through public places to gather for a private political meeting. In its normal use, the question "What do you have to hide?" stigmatizes all personal autonomy as anti-social. As such it is an authoritarian demand, and has no place in a free society.'

Emphasis mine.


Sep 07, 2001

Fuel cell system could help nab drunk drivers
Human Justice
'Developed by engineering students working under Kolesar, the technique is totally unobtrusive and does not require drivers to blow into a tube or respond to visual prompts. Instead, it uses a tiny ethyl alcohol fuel cell sensor manufactured by PAS Systems International (Fredericksburg, Va.) to monitor air in the vehicle cabin for the presence of ethanol vapor concentrations.

'Working with a sampling pump that draws in cabin air, the fuel cell chemically converts ethanol vapors to acetic acid, then produces an electrical voltage output signal proportional to the gas concentration. An op-amp circuit amplifies the raw output signal and a comparator circuit evaluates the data and "decides" whether the driver's blood alcohol level is too high.'

I gave in and made a new Human Justice category. This story isn't directly internet related, but it's the next logical step for this sort of system: Notification via wireless Internet connections.


Sep 07, 2001 - News

'EBay Inc. won what it called a precedent-setting court victory Thursday when a federal judge ruled that the Internet auction company was not liable for copyright infringement because bootleg copies of a Charles Manson documentary were sold on the site.'

'The judge in the eBay case said it was the first to test whether a Web site has a "safe harbor" if people use the site to sell items that infringe on copyrights.'

Wow. This shouldn't be amazing to me, because it's a judgement completely in line with the language of the DMCA, but it's just such a surprise to see a court rule against the copyright holder, even when the defendent is completely in the clear... As it stands now, the safe harbor provision is the only thing in the DMCA that really protects people, rather then copyright holders. In this case, eBay was a corporation, but I could just as easily need to invoke this safe harbor someday.


Sep 06, 2001

The Simpsons get toasted
Personal Commentary
Any illusions you may have that copyright is about profit should be dispensed with. The control freak stuff is really starting to torque me, and it is ever so slowly, but ever so surely, starting to encroach on my actual, every day life, rather then me looking for it like I normally do.

What prompted this? Well, on my local cable channel 15, broadcast channel 50, from 6:00pm through 6:30pm, all there is is a scrolling white message on a blue screen babbling about how some other channel has exclusive rights to the show (which happens to be the Simpsons)... except that the Simpsons are not shown anywhere else on my cable system at the time.

The stupid lawyers are so snotty about control that apparently it is more importent for them that I see a blue screen, from which no money is made, then watch their precious show and corresponding commericials.

It's not about the money. It's about the control. I guess you always have the right to act self-destructive...


Sep 06, 2001

Do Search Engines Expedite the Theft of Digital Images?
'But to make such gawking possible, search engines are taking a controversial step. Their technology, which uses Web searching tools called spiders, now makes copies of every image they come across, whether the search engines have permission to do so or not. Those images, many of which are reduced to thumbnail size, are then displayed in the search engine's results listings, again without explicit approval from the artists who created the images in the first place.'

I should write a short piece that simply catalogs every conflict about copyrights in the digital era I can think of, no commentary, nothing. Search engines can only access publicly available imagery, so is this use legal? (Probably not.) Ethical? (Possibly.) What about the next gradation on the scale? Fun fun fun.


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