RE: law enforcement for profit

From: Billy Brown (
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 23:35:59 MDT

Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> Which speaks more to how the internet violates our privacy and the
> security of our property rather than to a problem with the legal
> principle. The internet is our tool, not the reverse, we should not have
> our rights be enslaved to its limitations. We should not accept a police
> state just so we can feel better about ordering books online with our
> credit cards.

True. But I didn't say anything about accepting a police state. I said that
the idea that only human observations can constitute evidence is rapidly
becoming impractical, and will be completely unworkable in the very near
future. If you don't like my solution to the problem, offer another one -
but don't tell me we can just bury our heads in the sand and ignore it.

> If the courts insist upon extremely high reliability levels for recorded
> evidence that is not corroborated by human eyewitness testimony, then
> they obviously share my concerns.

Yes, they do. But the concern is not of infinite magnitude. At some point
you have to face the fact that it is perfectly possible to build a sensor
that is a more reliable witness than a human being, and that there are
situations in which it simply is not possible to rely on human senses

> Log files and other recorded data, especially on the internet, is highly
> abstracted from reality, easily misinterpreted and manipulated. For
> example, with a few hours work, I could jimmy up a log file that shows
> that you used my web server to access kiddy porn sites overseas on
> numerous occasions, enough so that a particularly zealous cop could get
> a search warrant and literally destroy your house, office, and computer
> system looking for evidence.

Which is why log files alone shouldn't be enough to convict someone unless
they come from a system with very strong anti-tampering measures. OTOH,
human beings can lie at will, and people get locked up based on nothing but
someone's word all the time.

> If you or anyone in your office or household is like the average male
> web browser, you've got a good number of porn images saved to your
> system or sitting in your browser cache directory. While you may have
> never actively searched out kiddy porn, it is highly likely that, if any
> user of your computer is typical of the average male web browser, you
> have files which could be argued fit the statutory definition of kiddy
> porn, that you never intentionally saved, or that you understood to be
> nothing but flat chested 18-20 year old women. Despite actual innocence,
> you could be strung up in public as a sexual predator.
> Even if you don't browse such things, I could also anonymously email you
> a zip file with such images in it. You could deleted the message, but
> the attachment would still sit in your cache, and even if you deleted
> your cache, the data can still be recovered by law enforcement level
> data recovery techniques.
> A system that relies on unwitnessed, abstract, impersonal data is at
> high risk of corruption, perversion, and manipulation. It is not data
> that should be trusted in a court of law.

Nothing should ever be assigned a 100% level of trust in a court of law. But
that doesn't mean the level of trust has to be 0%. The idea is supposed to
be to present the jury with all available data and let them decide who to
believe, remember?

Besides, the original topic was what to do with systems that are far more
difficult to tamper with. It is impossible to make any device completely
tamper-proof, but it is pretty easy to make them robust enough that it takes
real expertise to falsify their data. If the device also has reasonably high
accuracy (say, <0.01% false positives), it is going to be much more common
for a human witness to lie than for the device to give false data.

I have to admit, BTW, that I find it both amusing and sad that we can be
having this argument in this particular forum. Can you picture applying a
'only direct observations by sentients can be evidence' rule to a society of
Jupiter brains? Even relatively puny technologies like mature VR and
animal-level AI make the idea unworkable. Either you eventually adopt a more
flexible standard, or you end up with large swaths of social interaction
that are ripe for criminal abuse, but completely beyond the reach of law

Billy Brown

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:10:29 MDT