Author Archives: Jeremy

Myths About Internet Sexual Predators

Some very interesting facts from the Crimes Against Children Research Center:

In the vast majority of Internet sex crimes against young people, offenders did not actually deceive youth about the fact that they were adults who had sexual intentions. Acknowledging that they were older, the offenders seduced youth by being understanding, sympathetic, flattering, and by appealing to young people’s interest in romance, sex and adventure.

Although cases of abduction, forcible rape and murder have occurred, they are very rare. According to research looking at crimes ending in arrest, violence occurred in only 5% of cases. In most encounters, victims meet offenders voluntarily and expect sexual activity, because they feel love or affection for the person they have been corresponding with. Typically they have sex with the adult on multiple occasions. Most of these crimes are statutory rather than forcible rapes.

Virtually all cases of Internet sex crimes involve youth 12 and up. Most victims are ages 13 – 15. Younger children have much less interest than teens in interacting with and going to meet unknown persons they have encountered online. Avoid implying that the typical youngster vulnerable to online offenders is a young child.

Research has shown that simply posting or sending some personal information online does not put youth at risk. The reason is that most young people (like most adults) do give out personal information. It is hard to be online without doing so. A warning ("Never give out personal information online") that is so broad and runs counter to such common practices is not likely to make young people trust the source of such advice.

And a set of consolidated advice:

1 ) Be smart about what you post on the Web and what you say to others. The Web is a lot more public and permanent than it seems.
2 ) Provocative and sexy names and pictures can draw attention from people you don't want in your
life.
3 ) Sexy pictures can get you into trouble with the law. If you are underage, they may be considered
child pornography, a serious crime.
4 ) Be careful what you download or look at, even for a laugh. Some of the images on the Internet are
extreme, and you can’t “unsee ? something.
5 ) Going to sex chat rooms and other sex sites may connect you with people who can harass you in
ways you don't anticipate.
6 ) Free downloads and file-sharing can put pornography on your computer that you may not want and
can be hard to get rid of . Any pornography that shows children or teens under 18 is illegal child
pornography and can get you in big trouble.
7 ) Adults who talk to you about sex online are committing a crime. So are adults who meet underage
teens for sex. Some teens think it might be fun, harmless or romantic, but it means serious trouble
for everyone. It’s best to report it.
8 ) Don't play along with people on the Web who are acting badly, taking risks and being weird. Even
if you think it's harmless and feel like you can handle it, it only encourages them and may endanger
other young people.
9 ) Report it when other people are acting weird and inappropriately or harassing you or others. It's less
trouble just to log off, but these people may be dangerous. Save the communication. Contact the site
management, your service provider, the CyberTipline or even the police.
10 ) Don't let friends influence your better judgment. If you are surfing with other kids, don't let them
pressure you to do things you ordinarily wouldn't.
11 ) Be careful if you ever go to meet someone you have gotten to know through the Internet. You may think you know them well, but they may fool you. Go with a friend. Tell your parents. Meet in a
public place. Make sure your have your cell phone and an exit plan.
12 ) Don’t harass others. People may retaliate in ways you don’t expect.
13 ) You can overestimate your ability to handle things. It may feel like you are careful, savvy, aware of dangers, and able to manage the risks you take, but there are always unknowns. Don’t risk disasters.

The above is documented in this PDF.

Malls Tracking Customer Movements Via Cellphones

Lovely.

Customers in shopping centres are having their every move tracked by a new type of surveillance that listens in on the whisperings of their mobile phones.

The main point here is that business are highly interested in knowing everything they possibly can about you. The more then know, the more they can manipulate.

Just wait until everything we're carrying has an RFID chip in it. That will make their jobs so much easier.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

RFID Tracking Capabilities Exhibited at Conference

As part of a social experiment, attendees at a hacker conference in July will be issued badges with electronic tracking devices. Large displays will show in real-time where people go, with whom they associate, for how long and how often.

Hopefully after seeing how easy it is to tag and track someone with RFID, people will become more aware of what a dangerous technology this could be if we don't pass strong privacy regulations to prevent their misuse.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference of 2008 – Coming Soon!

I'm really jazzed about going to this conference. They've got some really cool events lined up like:

Hate Speech and Oppression in Cyberspace

Kids taunting classmates (with resulting emotional scars and even suicide); harassment, stalking, and death threats; and organized and race-, gender-, religion-based hate groups; prominent bloggers like Kathy Sierra and Blackamazon have take their blogs down after death threats or attacks … along with all its promise and power of cyberspace, the Internet also distributes words and images of hate that often lead to real-world violence.

And

Activism and Education Using Social Network

We plan on examining several different types of social networks. Some of these networks are geared toward sending out 'news blasts' to your network of friends, while others support having a much deeper conversation about the topic at hand. Protest groups on Facebook can quickly grow to over a million people– and lead to millions demonstrating in the real world. New technology such as "causes," now available both on Facebook and MySpace, allows for fundraising and eases recruiting. Easy sharing can increase the viral spread of videos and web pages. Innovative mashups like those promoted by Netsquared with their Mashup Challenge make information and calls to action more easily available to more people. We'll survey the available functionality and describe how to use the different variants for education and activism activities, as well as giving tips on how to become part of the particlar social network community that the participant is interested in.

The program is here, but you only have a few more days to sign up so get on it!

Man Spends 3 Million in only 3 Months on ID Theft

Using only a photocopy of a driver's license and a social security number, James Harman bought over 3 million dollars worth of goods in his brother's name.

The most important point to this story? It wouldn't have happend in the first place if he'd had a credit freeze, but it still would have even if he'd had any kind of monitoring or insurance plan (even Lifelock).

The Best Super-Power Ever

There have been a rash of really good superhero movies recently with the most current being the much-touted Iron Man (which I've yet to see so don't spoil it!) and Batman Begins (not only the best Batman movie ever, but one of the best movies ever made in my opinion).

Haven't you ever asked yourself, 'How cool would it be to have a superpower?
One question that always pops into our minds (ok, my mind) when watching these movies is, how cool would it be to have that power? How cool would it be to have a super-power at all! But what super-power would be best?

Well today, I give you that answer.

I thought long and hard about what powers would be most useful and powerful and there's many to choose from (Telekinesis, Mind-Reading, Shapeshifting, Illusion, and on and on). The problem is that each has a weakness or a situation that renders it useless.

Illusions don't work on machines and won't help you stop a bullet or save your darling as she plummets to her death from a tall building. So maybe go to Telekinesis to save your falling damsel, stop the bullet, and toss those robotic enforcers across the horizon, but then what about that secret poison needle that your "darling" is planning to betray you with? Mind-reading will come in very handy here, but is no good for attack dogs, Mexican wrestlers, or being pushed out of an Airplane. You see how this can go on for a while…

One superpower to rule them all...
Anyway, after long and hard deliberation, I've come up with a power that would fit nearly every need and be useful for everything from falling pianos to sticking your foot in your mouth. Undo.

That's right, undo. Imagine:

You spend four hours haggling on the price of a car and take it just a little too far. Undo the last thing you said and try again.

The red and blue lights flash behind you, undo, slow down, pass the speed trap, speed back up to 92 miles per hour.

Three words: Stocks, Racetrack, Vegas

Think of the possibilities!

Your wife gave you specific instructions to keep the dog in while she was gone, but during the game, someone comes to your door to tell you they just ran over a dog and they think it's yours. Undo, pause the game, get the dog, resume the game.

A guy breaks into your house which you find out only after they're standing over your bed with a gun telling you to "get up mutha*****!!". Undo, meet them at the door with a shotgun.

You just stepped off a curb and the blare of a horn announces your imminent grisly demise at the hands of a truck's grill. Undo, stay at the curb and let the truck pass.

And it doesn't have to be just once. If you turn down a street and get mugged only to undo and try a different street and get mugged again, go back a little earlier to when you left the hotel and take a cab instead.

If there's a limit to how far you can go, it's based mostly on how much of your life you want to relive. Maybe you just want to try the whole day over again. Maybe you made a horrible mistake a week ago, but didn't realize it until just now. Maybe you developed cancer months ago and if they had known then, you'd have survived. UNDO!

The Super-hero Gig

Maybe you can't stop a bank robbery, but you'd be able to call the SWAT team in at just the right time. Maybe you can't stop a meteor from coming down on your house, but you can back up a week and say, "Let's move! RIGHT NOW". You can't stop the violence in Iraq, but you could certainly help as an informant and keep yourself from getting killed if you went there.

Sure you don't get the glory of being in tights and impressing the all the chicks, but you'll never have to worry about missing a deadline, saying the wrong thing, being in the wrong place, or betting on the wrong horse.

The only two questions left are, what do you call yourself and is there any type of super-villain that could defeat you?

Note that I've already considered that you could defeat an undo power by just causing instant death. I have a solution to that worked out as well, but it gets complicated and I figured most people don't want to go that deep into my mind 😀

Viral Videos Replacing Ads, Generate Interest

There are some companies that seem to be making videos for YouTube that don't specifically mention any products, but feature the products prominently none-the-less. At least one person has noticed the trend and reported on it in at least two videos, one that has already been proven to be an ad and the other only just released.

Obviously the new ad has the same goals as the old: to market a product without actually naming it, by appealing to the public's love of Internet stunt videos.

I don't really have a problem with this. They're getting attention for the product with legitimate interesting videos. Whether a pro company made it or not, the stunts are pretty interesting and people are watching it for that. Assuming they're not trying to give the impression that these are amateur videos anyway.

New Games Require Internet Connection or You Can’t Play (PBBBBBLLTT!)

Some new game manufacturers are requiring that the game system you play with have an Internet connection so the game can authenticate itself every few days. Most people are pretty adverse to being treated like criminals just to play a game much like they'd resent a screeching corporate harpy who strikes their hands with a ruler every time they do something that the company deems "unworthy".

Well since the company can't afford to train and assign a corporate harpy to each and every player, they instead put restrictive software that calls home and says, "yup, this guy's still ok". Should the software not be able to call home, like a spy under strict orders to lie low, the game will refuse to operate until given an Internet connection by which to phone home to command.

The funny thing about this is that most of their market will happily and quickly buy their games, but when they put in the screws, those same customers will refuse. However, being avid gamers and fans, when presented with the ability and opportunity to download a cracked copy, they are much more likely to do so since they will still want to play the game.

SO… Adding restrictive software to prevent piracy actually causes piracy. Too bad they don't understand that.

A not-so-suprising reaction from the gaming community:

Penny Arcade Comic

Chrysler’s 2.99 Gas Deal is No Deal

Simply put, you get a special credit card when you buy a new Dodge (not every new Dodge, but most). You can use this credit card to buy fuel for $2.99 a gallon at any service station for three years following your date of purchase, regardless of the actual market price. Sounds great right?

Well it's not. Check out this article explaining why it's actually WORSE to take advantage of this deal than to buy a car normally.

Using Cellphones to Track Missing Persons

While this is barely legal (if it IS legal), I don't particularly have a problem with cell phone companies opening their data to police to help find a person reported as missing. That is, of course, assuming that they don't abuse the power and that missing persons are defined correctly.

As with most government powers, as long as there is independent oversight and proper consequences for abuse, who cares what powers they actually have?

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Youtube Champions Scientology Over Anonymous

Anonymous posts anti-scientology videos on Youtube. They get canceled. They start a new account in order to try again and perhaps not get canceled this time. They get canceled.

Apparently Youtube policy is that if you've been banned, you get no second chances. Any new account you create will be destroyed…. Unless you're paying money as in the case of the Cult of Scientology.

And yet Scientology is back on YouTube. This time, it's paying for the account. It's also paying for ads on the site, looking to drive some traffic onto its new channel. "Get the facts," the ads say.

School Then Versus School Now

I just got this e-mail describing how different situations might be handled in 1967 versus 2007. If you've had similar experience, post them in the comments.

School 1967 vs. School 2007

Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1967 – Vice principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his own shotgun to show Jack.
2007 – School goes into lockdown, the FBI is called, Jack is hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun a gain. Counselors are called in to assist traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1967 – Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
2007 – Police are called, SWAT team arrives and arrests Johnny and Mark. They are charged with assault and both are expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario: Jeffrey won't sit still in class, disrupts other students.

1967 – Jeffrey is sent to the principal's office and given a good paddling. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2007 – Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. Tested for ADD. School gets extra state funding because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1967 – Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 – Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the psychologist.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some Aspirin to school.

1967 – Mark shares Aspirin with the school principal out on the smoking dock.
2007 – Police are called and Mark is expelled from School for drug violations. His car is searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario: Pedro fails high-school English.

1967 – Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.
2007 – Pedro's cause is taken up by local human rights gr oup. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that making English a requirement for graduation is racist. US Civil Liberties Association files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover Independence Day firecrackers, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up an anthill.

1967 – Ants die.
2007 – Homeland Security and the FBI are call ed and Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism Teams investigate parents, siblings are removed from the home, computers are confiscated, and Johnny's dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario: Johnny falls during recess and scrapes his knee. His teacher, Mary, finds him crying, and gives him a hug to comfort him.

1967 – Johnny soon feels better and goes back to playing.
2007 – Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in federal prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy

Congress About to Do Something Smart! Gasp!

There's a bill winding it's way through the muck in the capitol building. If this bill becomes law, it would preemptively prevent DNA-based discrimination, get this: before it becomes a problem. In the past, congress has been reluctant to pass laws that would prevent a problem before it gets out of control because they lack foresight or because their pockets were so full of cash that they couldn't concentrate on upholding the rights of the little people.

GINA would make it illegal for health insurers to raise premiums or deny coverage based on genetic information, and would prohibit employers from using such information for decisions on hiring, firing, promotions or job assignments.

That aside, something good this way comes and let us pray, offer sacrifice, or speak in tongues
(whatever suits you) that this becomes a law.

(H/T to Slashdot for the link)

Oh, and if you're not familiar with the concept of discrimination through DNA, check out Gattica

FBI Director Evades Questions From Congress On FBI Torture

I got this e-mail from a member of congress who I must have contacted at some point because I'm on his mailing list. Anyway, I think the point that he makes is valid. By the own words of the director of the FBI, if the CIA were torturing prisoners, the FBI would have a responsibility to investigate, but they didn't. Congressman Wexler pressured him to answer why and he evaded it.

Here's the email:

This morning, during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, I questioned FBI Director Robert Mueller on his agency's response to claims – made by his own FBI agents – that the CIA was torturing prisoners. I wanted to find out why, if the FBI's own agents had alleged illegal actions were taking place, there was no investigation into the CIA's illegal and immoral practices.

Mueller's responses, which I would like you to read below, create new concerns and call for further investigation in the days ahead.

I believe Mr. Mueller owes more to Congress and the American people than the half-answers he gave in his testimony today.

I would urge you to contact the editors and news departments of your local media and ask them to look into the responses below. It is critical that this discussion takes place beyond emails and blogs – and is covered by the mainstream media.

In two weeks the Judiciary Committee will be holding hearings to investigate the fact that the highest levels of the Bush Administration sanctioned and ordered the torture of prisoners in United States custody. This is intolerable and we must vigorously oppose this policy that demeans our nation and offends our conscience.

Please read the below transcript of my exchange with Mr. Muller.

This is a deeply troubling interchange which should be alarming to all Americans.

Congressman Robert Wexler

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(TRANSCRIPT:)

Robert Wexler: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Director, in January of 2006, the New York Times reported that the NSA wireless wiretapping program had produced thousands of leads each month that the FBI had to track down, but that no Al-Qaeda networks were discovered. During a July 17, 2007 briefing, FBI deputy director John Pistole indicated that the FBI was not aware of any Al-Qaeda sleeper cells operating in the United States. In August of 2007 Congress passed the Protect America Act, giving the intelligence community greater access to electronic communications coming into and out of the United States. I have two questions in this regard.

RW: Has the FBI found any sleeper cells yet? One…

RW: Two. Has the NSA’s wireless wiretapping programs either before the Protect America Act or after led to the prosecution and conviction of any terrorists in the United States?

Robert Mueller: Well, as to your first question as to whether we have found affiliates or, as you would call them, cells of Al-Qaeda in the United States, yes we have. Again, I cannot get into it in public session, but I would say yes we have. With regard to the relationship of a particular case or individual to the terrorist surveillance program, again that is something that would have to be covered in a closed session.

RW: Alright, Mr. Director. An LA Times article from October, 2007 quotes one senior federal enforcement official as saying quote “the CIA determined they were going to torture people, and we made the decision not to be involved ? end quote. The article goes on to say that some FBI officials went to you and that you quote “pulled many of the agents back from playing even a supporting role in the investigations to avoid exposing them to legal jeopardy ? end quote.

RW: My question Mr. Director, I congratulate you for pulling the FBI agents back, but why did you not take more substantial steps to stop the interrogation techniques that your own FBI agents were telling you were illegal? Why did you not initiate criminal investigations when your agents told you the CIA and the Department of Defense were engaging in illegal interrogation techniques, and rather than simply pulling your agents out, shouldn’t you have directed them to prevent any illegal interrogations from taking place?

RM: I can go so far sir as to tell you that a protocol in the FBI is not to use coercion in any of our interrogations or our questioning and we have abided by our protocol.

RW: I appreciate that. What is the protocol say when the FBI knows that the CIA is engaging or the Department of Defense is engaging in an illegal technique? What does the protocol say in that circumstance?

RM: We would bring it up to appropriate authorities and determine whether the techniques were legal or illegal.

RW: Did you bring it up to appropriate authorities?

RM: All I can tell you is that we followed our own protocols.

RW: So you can’t tell us whether you brought it; when your own FBI agents came to you and said the CIA is doing something illegal which caused you to say don’t you get involved; you can’t tell us whether you then went to whatever authority?

RM: I’ll tell you we followed our own protocols.

RW: And what was the result?

RM: We followed our own protocols. We followed our protocols. We did not use coercion. We did not participate in any instance where coercion was used to my knowledge.

RW: Did the CIA use techniques that were illegal?

RM: I can’t comment on what has been done by another agency and under what authorities the other agency may have taken actions.

RW: Why can’t you comment on the actions of another agency?

RM: I leave that up to the other agency to answer questions with regard to the actions taken by that agency and the legal authorities that may apply to them.

RW: Are you the chief legal law enforcement agency in the United States?

RM: I am the Director of the FBI.

RW: And you do not have authority with respect to any other governmental agency in the United States? Is that what you’re saying?

RM: My authority is given to me to investigate. Yes we do.

RW: Did somebody take away that authority with respect to the CIA?

RM: Nobody has taken away the authority. I can tell you what our protocol was, and how we followed that protocol.

RW: Did anybody take away the authority with respect to the Department of Defense?

RM: I’m not certain what you mean.

RW: Your authority to investigate an illegal torture technique.

RM: There has to be a legal basis for us to investigate, and generally that legal basis is given to us by the Department of Justice. Any interpretations of the laws given to us by the Department of Justice….
(talking over each other)

RW: But apparently your own agents made a determination that the actions by the CIA and the Department of Defense were illegal, so much so that you authorized, ordered, your agents not to participate. But that’s it.

RM: I’ve told you what our protocol was, and I’ve indicated that we’ve adhered to our protocol throughout.

RW: My time is up. Thank you very much Mr. Director.

Could we get a little accountability over here?! Please?