Thursday, July 26, 2012

What If The World Knew What You Were Thinking: Modern Law And Communications

Imagine sitting at home one night, maybe reading the news on your e-reader or from the classic wp-reader (wood pulp reader ie newspaper). You come across an ad for a vacation spot that you are might be interested in. As you ponder the possibility of doling out the one thousand simoleans to do so, someone in a car drives by your house and screams out the window of their car:

"You don't want to go there, its a lousy spot to go".

A little shaken, you write that off to coincidence and continue your reading. You come across an article that has a picture of the columnist, who reminds you of an ex-girlfriend and you reminisce about a provocative evening you enjoyed with her. Somebody walking by says:

"Way to go buddy, I thought you didn't kiss and tell. I can't wait to tell the guys at corner store about that".

Now you are feeling a little agitated, maybe even violated. Frustrated, you decide to try finishing off a sales presentation that has to be finished by the end of the week.

You start working on it and your neighbor yells out their window:

"You're going to try to gouge your customer with a 10 percent commission? That's highway robbery".

Your tension level rising, you think about your commission and decide that it might be a little high. You mark it down to 8 percent and the neighbor says:

"I made you lower your commission! Slap!".

You decide to give up and go to bed. You don't sleep as well as you usually do though you have an enticing dream involving the girlfriend you were reminded about. You wake up in the morning and your neighbor says:

"Whoa. That was some night you had. You don't mind if I give her a call, do you?".

You clench your fists, ready to explode and lay a speech on the neighbor about your privacy and then realize that you are dealing in an issue that would be impossible for others to know about unless they could read your mind.

Does this sound a little too far out? Well it is possible with a little bit of technology and psychology to add the finishing touches. Here's how something like that could work.

The technology enabling the transmission of information over wireless networks is pretty stable and secure. Even with some expensive technology it would be pretty difficult to turn the frequency modulated waves back into their originating information though it would be possible given enough time and resources, but let's rule that out and stick with a more simple possibility. Imagine that every electronic device that has a video display, such as a video monitor could broadcast the signal that it receives from the computer to other computers (or just video monitors) as long as the other computers (or video monitors) had the right kind of receiver.

So now we have the technical means to keep an eye on what you are reading and working on right from your screen that doesn't require monitoring your internet connection. This kind of a configuration would work even if you didn't have an internet connection. Nor does it require a scary Orwellian totalitarian Government to make it possible, they would have better things to do, like having an interior decorator improve the visual presence of Room 101. It could be done by people in your neighborhood with ease for a relatively low cost and would only require one neighbor to act as a relay, that is if one computer receives the video signal from your computer, that could be relayed to fifty other monitoring computers if they have an internet connection or the right receiver.

Now imagine that one of the fifty computers keeping an eye on what you are checking out on your computer screen has someone that knows or knew you. They knew that the columnist you were looking at looked like one of your ex-girlfriends and relayed this info via text message to someone driving by your house.

This isn't really too far from the truth of what is possible. This sort of a scenario is the antithesis of data mining in relation to targetted marketing. The difference is that I see targetted marketing as a great thing. Based upon my web browsing habits, I will receive ads or search results that highlight the relationship of those browsing habits. That's great because the stuff that a person might want has a better chance of coming to them without them having to look for it.

Unfortunately the truth of the matter is that there are people that are using this kind of technology and they are using it to protect an underground economy. Finding those that may stand against this is the goal of such a group and the utilization of information technology to these ends has proven a benefit to them.

By doing so, they may have been tricking the public into thinking that it is the Government that is doing this when in fact it is just a group of well organized civilians. In doing so they would risk turning a greater number of people against the Government and creating civil unrest and increasing the number of people that would support their cause.

The problem and the extent of this situation makes it a very dangerous prospect if laws governing the unauthorized use of monitoring technologies are not reeled in and modernized to meet the risk they pose. If such technology makes its way into the hands of identity thieves, corporate spies, intellectual or technical property thieves the economic risks become monumental.

Imagine a civilian group being able to monitor your activities when you are filling out a bank funds transfer, or an online purchase, or the use of a Government service that requires a registered user. Such a civilian group would not have to be bonded in order to be insurable in case of liability. There would be no safeguards against the misuse of such information.

People monitoring in this way would literally be able to see everything a person could see on their screen. That is they could see the answers to your secret questions about account verification. Enough of those when combined with your name, address, date of birth, social insurance or social security numbers and the rest of your personal information would provide an identity thief with a smorgasbord that would keep them able to operate with your identity for years.

Creative and Intellectual properties could fall risk to such theft at the hands of the people monitoring. People could literally take your ideas, and perhaps your creations and claim them for their own without you even knowing. They could then obtain a legal copyright against your works and be the legal owners of those works.

What about a corporate venture or deal involving millions of dollars. Having advance information about such a deal could have effects that would ripple markets world wide. What about a Government official monitored so as to compromise a bill proposal, or an amendment to an Act or Statute ahead of its presentation to the Senate.

The current hurdles that exist in the legal arena with regard to such activity is that the laws concerning the protection of privacy must be modernized to take into consideration that an internet connection between a provider and a customer is a private communication.

The Nevis Consulting Group Inc. conducted a study which was turned into the Department of Justice Canada on April 28, 2003. Here are some of the recommendations:


1. E-mail should receive the same treatment by the Canadian government as first-class mail, affording it the same protection as any other private communication. Thus the statutory and common law rules of evidence would apply equally to e-mail as to postal mail.

2. The Criminal Code should be amended to clarify that e-mail, at least while in transit, constitutes a "private communication" under section 183. It would then be subject to the same procedural safeguards as all other interceptions under this provision.

3. The Criminal Code should define clearly when an e-mail ceases to be a communication subject to interception and when it becomes a document subject to search and seizure.

4. Canadians have a similar reasonable expectation of privacy when using e-mail as they do with other forms of communication. The legal treatment of e-mail should not be determined by technological capability but rather by our values as a society. If we wish to communicate privately by e-mail we should construct our laws to make it so.

5. Non-profit ISPs run by community associations that offer confidential e-mail lists to enable lawyers to consult with community advocates on difficult cases, law reform issues and other sensitive matters are concerned that the proposed legislation may violate the privacy of advocates and others using this service.

6. Although ISPs are private companies, they should be subject to state-imposed regulation because they are responsible for the essential service of e-mail delivery.

What this basicly states is that email should be covered under the same laws that protect postal mail and that a breach of a person's email would be the same as opening someone else's private postal mail. It also clarifies that the communication between and ISP and a customer's computer should be considered a private communication and protected by the criminal code by section 183 which covers laws regarding the interception of communications.

These laws should further be expanded to cover the scenarios that I have listed above involving the interception of display signals or any such monitoring that may occur independent of a network connection at all.

Another area of consideration should be the area concerning the offshore interception and collection of data. The dangers of such a practice pose risks outside of the legal jurisdictions of the originating countries. The risks are similar to the ones mentioned above except that the laws protecting one domestically would have little or no effect on those operating offshore. Combining the display monitoring technology with a computer receiving the wireless display information then relaying that information to an offshore data harvesting operation could be potentially disastrous personally and potentially politically and economically.

In closing, it is important to note that some of the aforementioned situations involve scenarios that are within the realm of possibility and are definitely in practice today. That does not mean that one should lose confidence in the great potential for business and communications that the internet and computers pose. Its does ascertain that one utilizing the technology should be aware of some risks so that they may recognize the warning signs of such a possibility being realized and further to understand the necessity of the Government updating these laws to cover these possibilities.

As of the report date of April 28, 2003, the following Canadian Government Departments and civil society groups are responding to the recommendations:

Government Departments

Alberta Justice

Alberta Solicitor General

Civil Society Groups

B.C. Civil Liberties Association

British Columbia Freedom of Information and

Privacy Association

Canadian Bar Association

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Canadian Library Association

Civil Liberties Association, National Capital Region

Electronic Frontier Canada and

Electronic Frontier Foundation (US)

Electronic Privacy Information Center (US)

Internet Law Group - University of Manitoba

Option consommateurs


Privaterra - Computer Professionals for Social


Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Vancouver Community Network

Risque Factor

(c) Copyright 2012 Brian Joseph Johns

Friday, July 20, 2012

Modern Sexuality Meets Old School Morality

The last twenty years have presented a big change in our way of thinking, and have amplified the effects of a new way of thinking. Hugh Hefner founded Playboy magazine in 1953 and in doing so had started a social movement that ultimately had resulted in a change of attitudes with regard to sexuality. It had been targeted on a number of grounds related to differing views of morality. The entirety of the history of printed works has been pocked with such events over its long history but has matured into a powerful force in the shaping of our social views, sexuality being one of them. Playboy, which featured a mixture of erotic pictorials, articles, editorials and fiction was the first face on the modern printing landscape and was soon to be followed by numerous other magazines such as Penthouse, each filling a different niche in society's appetite for sexuality.

The results of this changing attitude despite the onslaught of those who have stood against it was perhaps the drawing of attention to the need for sex education in secondary schools, which at that point already had a tiny but silent following (we are talking about pre-sixties sensibility). Many of those who initially stood against it eventually changed views, some of whom were even interviewed by Playboy magazine. This mentality and open minded thinking continued through the sixties and seventies renewed innocence and overindulgence, demonstrating an awakening of humanity's attitudes toward their own sexuality.

The Internet, another publishing medium albeit one that allows immediate feedback and interactivity became the new ground for such a conflict. Socially with the Internet as the new medium we have followed the same path as that which was taken in the sixties and seventies, and four hundred years earlier during the Renaissance. Again the social attitudes see-sawed back to a more conservative brand of thinking.

There is a balance point in regard to sexual etiquette and social sexuality that is very important in terms of how our views of sex actually affect society. When that balance is pushed one way or the other in terms of liberal or conservative views, society is affected similarly in each case. It is important to note that my use of the terms liberal and conservative do not refer to political ideas nor to actual political parties but more a representation of a school of thinking.

When society is too conservative towards sexuality, the side effects can be devastating to society as a whole. This begins with the pressure to clamp down on sexuality in every social medium by way of affecting social attitudes. This balance point is important because it affects how people feel in their openness about their own sexuality. That is in a overtly conservative society, the pressure is geared to make those who are unashamed about their sexuality feel guilty for such, perhaps by associating it with something that is unacceptable to the rest of society. This serves as pressure to the whole, and affects the comfort level that adults making adult decisions with regard to their own lives and their own sexuality. This may include their attitudes and habits of their partnerships which are subjective, their own personal sexuality such as masturbation which is a perfectly natural thing, or even about their choice in terms of the gender they choose to date a la same sex partnerships.

Often, when society has become liberal enough so that people are generally more accepting of such sexual ideas practiced by consenting adults, the more conservative of those in society may be tempted to associate such ideas with something that is completely unacceptable so that it would be easier to eradicate that way of thinking and the whole practice of openness with regard to sexuality.

When adults are pressured in a social manner to feel threatened or guilty for anything that is a part of their natural makeup and that does not involve obsessive or addictive behaviour, the results can lead to the creation of a sexual market that is not entirely for the better. I am talking about drug (mostly crack cocaine and perhaps crystal meth or some other equally addicting agent) motivated prostitution, which involves the luring of (young) women and sometimes men by way of the use of addictive drug as a motivator and a catalyst. That is when people are made to feel guilty or persecuted about natural sexual tendencies as practiced by adults mature enough to make their own decisions, given long enough in this sort of social pressure, will create the market necessary to feed that repressed social desire in adults.

In this case I cite that overtly conservative attack upon natural sexual activity actually results in the creation of underground markets to satiate the repressed public in this regard and ends up harming those that it intends to protect.

Now let's look at the flip side of the coin. In a liberally minded society with equally liberal attitudes with regard to adults involved in the practice of their own sexuality, the common ground for what is acceptable and what is not slowly moves as society slowly is changed by the lack social constraint with regard to these issues. That is what was previously unacceptable slowly becomes acceptable given enough time and open attitudes. The things that may have shocked us, no longer do. The constraints that would have prevented somebody's daughter from going out and partying, getting involved in crack cocaine and liking it and the adventurous lifestyle of those associated with it, and ultimately ending up losing her home and living on the street, selling their body to support the habit, don't exist because nobody knows about that kind of a thing or because that's just the way it is. Perhaps with such open views there are those that aren't and perhaps don't want to be by way of choice so sexually enlightened. They would feel uncomfortable in such a society, and especially when approached by someone whom feels the opposite within those regards and wrongly assumes and expects an openness from that person on the grounds that the many other people feel that way.

In extremis each side of the conservative or liberal attitudes in a society with regard to adult sexuality tend to lead by way of example to the same thing.

Neither of these extremities take into consideration the effects of sexual exploitation of perhaps somebody that has experienced the extreme in that regard. Take somebody that has been harvested into sexual trafficking or victimized through rape. Perhaps it started out against their will with them experiencing rape and being violated in a way that would not be very inviting or conducive of our ideas of modern sexuality for it is someone's innocence being violated in a way that would be hard for most people to imagine. Such a person would have much different ideas of sexuality and love. Such a person once they were liberated from such a situation would would probably have difficulty adjusting (although I would hope that they could learn to trust again) to a loving relationship as their notion of that would have been destroyed and every time their lover caressed them lovingly, they would perhaps be reminded of being violated.

This brings me back to Playboy and the sexual revolution. The importance of the role of education with regard to sexuality and confidence despite peer pressure has created a society where sexuality is in the hands of those who wield it. It is through the confidence of education, and not just sex education but social attitude education and the teaching of individual confidence in the face of peer pressure and the fact that you are in the driver's seat when you make decisions with regard to your future with the absence of the people that you look up to. Individuality, within a social society. Through these ideals, education and confidence and especially self confidence we find a society incapable of victimizing those so empowered.

This idea encompasses both hetero and homosexual individuals, and those around the world whom have become independent and empowered by education, self confidence and realized their individuality and the sanctity of their bodies and ultimately their right to choose whom they give up their most cherished to and the understanding where that is just the beginning of a healthy and long lasting relationship. That is the empowerment of sex education and self actualization, both in a large part of contribution to the shaping of social attitudes that began with art many centuries ago and culminated in ultimately that which would become the legacy of courageous artists from across history, educators and magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, which like many Renaissance painting had the courage to say, "there is no need to fear nakedness, for underneath is the most beautiful of creations: our bodies".

© Copyright 2012 Brian Joseph Johns