Mar 02, 2001

Juror may have sent "guilty" e-mail to 900 people
3/2/2001; 5:28:36 PM

Another interesting computers-affects-justice story (see preceding item).

'When you serve on a jury, the judge makes it clear: Don't talk to anyone about the case. But one juror may have broken that rule in a big way -- by writing an e-mail that went out to 900 people.

'"Just say he's guilty and let's get on with our lives!" the message said.

'Now, the Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether the comments require a new trial.'

It may seem this is not strictly a computer issue; jurors have been communicating illegally ever since the rules were first made. I think the difference is that computers are powerful, which means they make things easy... and that means it's correspondingly easier to screw things up. When's the last time you accidentally mailed nine hundred people a postcard? With some modern e-mail programs, this mistake is no more then a couple of keystrokes (or a macro virus!) away!

Computer users beware! (That would sound great in Latin, wouldn't it?)

Mar 02, 2001

British Child Justice and "Anonymity for Life"
Misc.3/2/2001; 2:46:51 PM Note: Despite the title, this is not a story about privacy, it's a story about justice and a particularly unusual Internet effect.The story behind that link is relatively long. To summarize, many years ago two ten-year old boys brutally murdered a two-year old boy in Britain. You may recall the news story... I believe it was international and I seem to remember something about it. In 2001, the mandatory minimum jail sentance will be up (see details in story) and the two former children (now young adults) will be allowed to go free. In addition, in order to allow them a clean slate, the British judicial system has granted them anonymity, something I've not heard of in this country but that could well be my own ignorance; I'm not well versed in juvenile justice.This "anonymity" is a ban on the British media from publicizing the story or publishing any details that might allow people to link these adults to their former crimes, including appearance or whereabouts.The linked story refers to a petition circulating around claiming it's wrong for these people to go free, etc. etc. and the main thrust of the respone on is simply that it's too late for a petition to matter, as it's a done deal. However, there's an interesting wrinkle in the story that pertains to the international nature of the Internet:'The anonymity guarantee and publication ban were set in place by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court's Family Division. She is convinced the pair would be genuinely at risk if their identities and locations were disclosed, hence her ruling. "Although the crime of these two young men was especially heinous, they have the right of all citizens to the protection of the law." ...'Dame Butler-Sloss banned the media from publishing any information leading to the identification or disclosure of whereabouts of Venables or Thompson, including photographs and descriptions of their appearance. She also banned, for 12 months, publication of information about their eight-year stay in local authority secure units. Even after that, confidential information relating to their treatment and therapy cannot be published. 'The judge has admitted she is aware the injunctions she has imposed might not be fully effective outside England and Wales. She has banned the domestic media from giving wider circulation to material from the Internet or media elsewhere if it is likely to breach the injunction.'It is difficult to prevent the spread of information internationally, even in those rare cases where it might be desirable to do so. I don't know about you, but personally I think it's a good thing to give these two another chance (they can be tried just like anyone else should they do anything else), and I think this is a justifiable case of a media gag. So I find it intriguing in this case that the Internet provides such a convenient and easy way around it.I've said this before, but it's still a difficult thing to internalize. This is a very real case, involving real people who might suffer real harm if the wrong people get a hold of information that leads them to the location of the boys. (Death threats have been received.) The Internet, because of its uncontrollable nature, could well be the vector that leads to harm that Britain could not prevent.In the hands of other writers, this would become a polemic for stricter Internet controls. To them I would simply reply that this sort of thing can absolutely not be stopped; there will always be things that are legal in one country but not another, and so this issue will always arise. My point here is simply that I think this is a great example, almost a textbook example, of the kind of problem that makes international harmonization of Internet policies a virtual impossibility. Food for thought.

Feb 28, 2001

Wierd spam, man...
2/28/2001; 11:29:33 PM

I just recieved the following spam message, suitably de-HTML'ed:

Sooner or later the antis spammers will win but in the mean time
 I will keep bringing you the news at http:/ / if this site is not working go to this one and you can see http:/ /

Links deliberately broken but those are the real URLs... I figure why hide it? 

Can you believe it? Anti-anti-spam-spam? Does who ever this bozo is wonder why so many people are against spam? Though I have to admit the humor value of this is unusually high.

To see the full original message, in case you still don't believe it, I've archived it here.

Feb 28, 2001

Telemarketing tracking
Personal Commentary2/28/2001; 12:34:46 PM I got another telemarketer phone call yesterday. Started out by asking for "Mark somebody-or-other", whereby I told them there is no person by that name here. They confirmed my number... then started into their speil anyhow! This made the "This is a courtesy call" part particularly amusing... a courtesy call when you don't even know who I am?(Side question: Can anybody tell me what a courtesy call is supposed to mean? A courtesy call that your dry cleaning is done? That your insurance is about to lapse due to the fact we haven't received payment? Or has it always been a euphemism for "We'd like to sell you something now?")Anyhow, it made me wonder. What with all of this tracking and targetting that advertisers want to do and are doing, why can't they add one more field: "Does not respond to advertising"? Why can't they link to my profile the phrase "does not buy stuff from people who call unsolicited", or "does not purchase from junk mail"? Not only does it benefit me, but it will benefit them, saving them the time that it takes to call me (and get hung up on). Same goes online. I haven't clicked on an ad in weeks. Why doesn't Doubleclick notice and start shipping me blank images? They don't lose anything, in fact, they gain some (relatively exprensive) bandwidth back, 'cause I'm not going to click anyhow!And the indirect benefits of such a scheme would go even further. The people (like me) who are simply annoyed and won't buy, ever, are also the ones forming groups to try to get legal limits on this stuff and pushing the opt-in schemes the advertisers hate so much. If they'd just track a little more intelligently and stop serving us so much crap, maybe we'd stop organizing and antagonizing for limits. If tracking of this kind benefited me and others directly, perhaps fewer of us would object to advertisers tracking us. (There's still a lot of other kinds of tracking to object to, though.)Internet ads would not disappear even if they were to mark me as "does not buy from ads"... the "branding" ads would still be sold and viewed. But phone calls and junk mail really only have value in whether or not I buy from them... and I don't.

Feb 28, 2001

My apologies
Personal Notes2/28/2001; 11:38:58 AM I'd like to apologize for the further lack of posting to this 'blog. My computer system has recovered, but my biological systems went down. Next week is Spring break, and boy do I need it! I think I want to spend an hour just sitting on the couch, doing nothing but basking in the sun (although the odds of there being sunlight are about one out of five, no exagerration unfortunately... that's Michigan).Also, FYI, I think I'm going to lower the level of privacy postings. They've been dominating for a while. The main reason for this, I think, is that it's become an acknoleged issue, even in the mainstream media. Good for privacy advocates, but it does tend to flood this site. I'll still post the good ones, of course. The real purpose of this 'blog is, to the best of my abilities, to be ahead of the curve, not merely tracking it.

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