Friday, December 7, 2007

Innovation introduces Legal Challenges

I have a friend whose life was greatly impacted by a child predator and pornographer. This person grew up outside of the United States and I found it interesting and upsetting to hear about their experience facing this person and how the judicial system there addressed the situation. It also made me start to worry about how this sort of thing can be stopped in the future and what sorts of laws exist regarding this. As a result, I decided to take a look at how the United States, and a European country, England (chosen to avoid language barriers) are attacking this and if/how globalisation and growing technology was helping or hurting this battle. My research is a bit dry as it does, after all, focus on legal issues - but I think it's an important one. For an abstract of my approach, keep reading.

Many differences exist between American and English pornography history and laws. There are also vast differences in censorship policies in these two countries. The new Internet medium is causing these countries to pass legislation that will determine how illegal Internet activity, such as child pornography, will be handled. American law was originally based on English common law, but a number of changes have taken place in the last century creating a great divide between the two countries’ sets of laws. Both countries’ laws regarding pornography have recently undergone a large amount of scrutiny and also some change. Pornography laws, some only recently made, are currently being challenged by legislators and litigation in both nations. As a result, a number of landmark decisions are expected to be made that greatly effect policing of Internet Service Providers, Web site creators, pornographers, in addition to individual Internet users. Based on the history of legislation in each country, a comparison is made between recently developed changes as a result of the introduction of the Internet. Additionally, a comparison of currently pending decisions is examined to discuss the possibilities of the growing or decreasing divide between the two nations’ attempt to reduce illegal Internet pornography circulation and viewing.

The full paper is here:[1].pdf

Friday, November 9, 2007

Crisis Prevention (or Intervention) and the Internet

This week, Marina Calabrese posted about the role the Internet can play in crisis, disaster response and preparedness. You can read her post here:

While Marina focuses on many events here in the US, I started thinking about what sort of impact it might have on the situation in Darfur if all these people who are being victimised could blog about it...or what if they posted videos? How would the world react if they didn't just hear celebrities trying to raise money for the cause - or occasionally see graphic pictures or posters?
I have to say, after seeing the horrific graphic videos of beheadings in Iraq and Afghanistan on the Internet, I have an entirely different reaction when I read that word [beheaded] than I ever did in the past.

Marina focuses on informing people on how to protect themselves - which is a great point. But it also really makes me wonder if people would be able to turn a blind eye if they were able to watch what's happening in Africa, and not just read about it. Not that it would be an uplifting video - or even something you would WANT to see, but it would cause people to realise the things happening on the other side of the world really are REALITY and that the victims are real people as well.

In Our Own Back Yard

As part of my own topic on the digital divide, and in reaction to colleagues blogs over the last few days, I've made a few points about people who are lacking the proper access and education regarding technology. I've specifically talked about Africa, the elderly and school aged children in our own back yards. Then today, as I was reading through some of my colleagues' blogs, I realised Amanda Toler had written about just those things here:

Amanda makes a great point that some access is better than none - and that even if computers made available at schools are old and outdated, at least basic skills can be taught.

But there's one thing that Amanda said that really got me thinking: "you don't need PowerPoint to teach." This made me realise that the Senior Digital Divide is really influencing the younger generation's access to technology - a correlation I did not make in an earlier post. I believe this because until Amanda mentioned it, I had not even thought about PowerPoint in K-12 classes simply because it wasn't used in my own education until college. Therefore, I think many people are probably underestimating the actual needs of schools - which means funding is undoubtedly underestimated as well.

I will try not to get off on a rant, but I find it terribly sad that a country regarded as one of the wealthiest and most powerful by the rest of the world cannot establish a decent education system. The US is one of the only countries around the world that has such exorbitant costs for higher education - and drastically underfunded K-12 schools. What is wrong when we can fund all kinds of initiatives, but cannot invest in the education of our children - and therefore essentially the future of our country? And why isn't the media talking about it?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

My Favourite T-Shirt: "You Were Cuter in Your MySpace Pic"

Last week, my friend and I were on the phone talking about how we both have MySpace and Facebook profiles...and how we have no idea what the rules are when it comes to it. We're not sure when we're "in a relationship" or when to say "it's complicated."

Also on that note, a guy I had just met the weekend prior sent me an e-mail and said "I have to admit I looked you up on Facebook, but then I was afraid to add you in case that might be a bit stalkerish." I could only laugh. What is desperately needed is an etiquette book.

But on a more serious note, when I replied I said "well, I won't mind - it's on the Internet after all. It's not like you snooped through my knickers drawer." And that's just the point. So many people forget that everything they put on the Internet could possibly be viewed by anyone - even if they think their profile is private. Joe Recomendes blogged about just that this week here:

The same friend that was talking to me about the rules and etiquette of networking sites made a great point. He mentioned that once he wanted to send a message to a friend but their profile was private and didn't allow messages. But then later he was viewing another friend's page, and the same person with the private profile had posted their phone number in the comments - so he just called them!

In response to my last post, and to what Joe mentions, listing too much information makes you vulnerable. With a little craft, an identity thief only needs your name, address and phone number and can often find the other information they need...

Visual cognizance is a funny thing. The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" reminds me that many people only see the person's picture of the page they're posting on and forget that the Internet is a huge domain and anyone, anywhere could see your information. If you wouldn't reply to a spammer with your phone number, I suggest you not place it on anyone's profile page either.

Paranoia becomes Reality

Since I first started hearing about Identity Theft, I have been extremely paranoid this is going to happen to me. I have so much "protection" software on my computer I can barely logon in less than 30 minutes for all the passwords I have to put in - and I'm not really sure any of it is really working. I'm almost to the point of shredding generic sales papers that are in no way addressed to me. Ok, that's an exaggeration.

But on that note, Josh Voorhees, recently posted about privacy on the Internet and the pros and cons (including Identity Theft) and it started the wheels turning again about this topic. You can read his post here:
I'm a huge advocate of privacy and this post really hits the nail on the head. It's a classic "damned-if-you-do" and "damned-if-you-don't" scenario. And I wish I had the answer as to what the appropriate response should be...

But the thing that is most perplexing is that Josh says some government action is needed. I agree, but something happened this week that makes the situation of Identity Theft even more unnerving. A friend of mine had his identity stolen - but he wasn't any Jo Schmoo - he was an NYPD officer. How much protection can we possibly have if even our law enforcement officials are being targeted...many who didn't even realise they had been scammed until my friend figured out he had!!! You can read about it here:

After a few days writing about how every nation and every child should have Internet like this makes me realise that it is also easy to be nostalgic about "the way things were" when victimised by the bad things that inevitably accompany any new invention introduced to society.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Another sort of Digital Divide

Technology has in many ways brought people much closer - as I've mentioned and focused on in many of my earlier posts. However, it has also created distances such as those I mentioned in my posts regarding the digital divide. Lisa Bistreich, one of my colleagues who blogs, has recently addressed a different sort of digital divide - a divide created between seniors and younger generations. You can read her post here:

Lisa makes a good point that I think is very applicable in the here and now. However, unlike the international and class digital divide I have been focusing on, I think the senior digital divide is likely to solve itself through time. It only makes sense that younger people keen on technology today will one day grow old and replace today's older generation that has fallen victim to an era of drastic change in lifestyles.

It is terribly unfortunate, and sad, that the elderly may be lacking resources to medical information and other pertinent resources available readily on the Internet. However, I think that the problem with technology in Africa and other less developed countries are far greater - because even their young generations are going to grow old and be technologically illiterate. Therefore, the problem increases instead of gradually dying out (which I think will inevitably happen with the senior divide currently being experienced in the westernized countries).

On that note, in my opinion, if anyone is getting left behind in westernized cultures, it is the children being raised in poverty...who often do not even have the choice to turn down the opportunity to learn about technology that so many of our seniors are in fact making daily.

Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm Not the Only Worry Wart

So my last two posts talked about the concern of the digital divide, and then my troubled list of problems with finding a solution for it. Luckily, however, I'm not the only person who has a growing concern about this. And I do think there are some savvy solutions we can start implementing right away.

The first, is education. First we need to educate the more priviledged nations with technology about this problem. And it needs to be in such a way that they understand that even if they're not sympathetic, this is affecting them as well. Then, hopefully with their help we can also educate the governments of societies around the world about the importance of introducing technology to their societies.

Check out this site for some examples of how education can be introduced, and also for more information on the digital divide:

This is a non-profit organisation that is focused on humanitarian issues as well as the digital divide however. In some cases, it is very traditional and the multi-focus may add a degree of difficulty when trying to reach different technological goals -specifically in regard to building business.

Another solution is to introduce a much different approach, that may not mean that the countries who have previously been on the negative side of the divide will have to adapt or educate themselves as traditionally thought. Rather, ideas on how technology could be introduced, but more smoothly and beneficially may be in order. In other words, technology solutions need to be developed which are more "outside the box."

This organisation is attempting to do just that:

This organisation started work in Indonesia and is then branching out to try to do the same in other countries. It is hosting conferences with governments in hopes of making a change.

This site is very balanced, and notes many of the fallacies with the divide. I recommend the read as it goes into some intricate issues of my solutions that I agree with, but do not have space to delve into in these posts. I especially think this is a good resource as this is non-profit organisation rather than a more capitalistic venture.

Finally, on the logistics note, I found some interesting tools for providing Internet access - which is also environmentally friendly here:

Solar power for technology is a great solution. And, whilst the site obviously has an interest in pushing it's environmentalist agenda more than an agenda of bridging a digital divide, it is a good idea that would offer a faster solution than trying to suddenly wire vast areas with electricity.

I find the feasibility of cost of the generators at first to be questionable, however, and the ability to always have the sunlight needed to constantly power all the technology you would need at once. It would be interesting to look into other more objective sites on the issue to determine if the system will support the high speed technology needed for reliable business and communication.