Put that Internet Evil back in the Box!

Posted on Fri 18 July 2003 in general

In case you haven't been living in a box for the last few days you may
of noticed a bunch of news regarding href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3073355.stm">a 12 year old girl
and 31 year old ex-marine meeting after establishing a
relationship in an Internet chat-room. I was pleasantly surprised by the
lack of "The Internet is Evil" backlash until I read the
Bill Blog. In the article Bill argues that child age verification (i.e. verifying
children in chat rooms are children) wouldn't work so the obvious
solution is to make all chat rooms "adult-only and require age
verification by those hosting them."I don't see how Bill, knowledgeable about the net as he is, thinks the
second option is any more realistic. I use IRC and there are
thousands of servers out there and I don't know how he intends to
ensure they all switch to some sort of mythical age verification for
the benefit of the children.
The correct answer of course is to supervise (not spy!) your children
and ensure they are educated to the dangers of the 'net, just as you
tell them how to cross the road. If they prove unable to follow the
advice then don't allow them out on their own on the 'net.
Away from the occasional weirdos you find on the 'net I did find two
other pieces interesting. The first href=http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technology/2003-07-13-microsoft-linux-munich_x.htm>article
is a nice detailed background to what went on when Microsoft lost out
on a licensing deal to upgrade Munich's computing systems. The
interesting thing was Microsoft lost despite the cheaper bid, because
Munich realised while you might get a good deal this time around when
you rely on a proprietary system to power your systems your at the
mercy of the one vendor. The tide is certainly turning :-)
The other I, Cringely article was very interesting about what happens when law
enforcement and pervasive surveillance is the norm. A lot of the time
cyber-libertarians (of which I count myself as one) often get unfairly
painted as a bunch of dope-smoking, file-sharing beatniks who just
don't want to get caught out doing something wrong. The problem with
the "if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about"
approach is though I (within limits) trust our police and intelligence
agencies to not doing anything without cause, I can't trust everyone.
And once these snooping systems with their mountains of data are there
who's checking they aren't being wrongly used? Its an even scarier
thought than the href=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2037459.stm>RIPA Snooper's
Charter debacle of last year.