Wednesday, December 19, 2012

FTC updates COPPA for 21st Century; some provisions could have hidden consequences for ISP;s and ordinary sites


The Federal Trade Commission has updated its interpretation and administration of the COPPA act, with a press release today, link (website url) here.

One of the most important provisions is to include geolocation as personal information that may not be collected about minors without parental consent.  Other information now regarded as “personal” includes server log information such as IP address (relative and absolute) and routing history.

Theoretically, the latter provision could affect even me (with doaskdotell.com) because I can see IP addresses on server logs, and in some cases identify who might have done the access or Google search.  

This capability was actually important in doing forensics on an incident with one of my web postings when I was substitute teaching in 2005.  I’ll have to stay tuned on this one, to see if there is any downstream impact.   (There more details about that incident on the "Bill Boushka" blog for Jiuly 27, 2007.) 

I don’t normally monitor server logs, because I don’t have time.  Website advertising services encourage webmaster to know how to mine their logs (as well of Urchin) so I do think there can be future issues here. 

Another major provision closes a loophole that let third parties  (and kids’ apps) collect information.  Cecilia Kang explained, in a Washington Post article today (here), that a company like Facebook could not collect information (as with the "Like" button associated with Facebook handles on millions of sites) from websites that it knew collected information from children, but Facebook says it has no way to know that.  Google could have a similar problem with YouTube likes.  It is not apparent that the FTC has a "handle" (pun) on how this could be done. 

Natasha Singer, in a similar story in the New York Times on Wednesday, noted that advertising schemes that use cookies could run into trouble, because they would have no way of knowing when children access them (a conceptual problem we have already seen with COPA - as distinct from COPPA). This could hook up with "do not track" issues and provide an existential problem for the web environment we know today, with user-generated content supported by automated advertising. 

The FTC rule also mentions a “safe harbor” rule.  I don’t know if this has to do with potential third party liability (and possibly with the cookie issue, or the third-party implantation problem).  I’ll have to follow up on this concept with Electronic Frontier Foundation.  I’ll report again on it.  This could become very important, on the level of SOPA. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FTC ups ante on kids' ,mobile app privacy with new report: treat geolocation as personal information!


The FTC continues to scrutinize mobile apps that kids can use, and wants to promulgate a rule that regards geolocation as personal information, that can be collected from minors only with parental consent, according to a new detailed front page story by Cecilia Kang in the Washington Post on Tuesday, December 11, 2012, link here

The FTC recently tested over 400 apps for ultimate compliance with COPPA.

The Federal Trade Commission home page this morning banners us with “Mobile Apps for Kids: Disclosures still not making the grade”, and has a detailed staff report , here

The requirements would effectively make it much easier for adults to privatize their whereabouts, too, since mobile technology would have to become much more forthright in how to hide many aspects of personal use. 

I don’t normally share prospectively my own plans on Facebook (such as concert or play tickets, or especially travel), because there have been cases where people have trolled Facebook and other social media just for those purposes.  Yet I’m always prompted at purchase to let them post on Facebook.  

Friday, December 07, 2012

US pushes new Child Protection Act, uncertain if it could expose people to hackers, viruses


Media are reporting that Senator Jon Coryn (R-TX) is urging passage of a new “Child Protection Act” to protect child witnesses and give US Marshalls and police more leeway in getting “time sensitive documents”, with KSAT story here

 The law would also increase penalties for child pornography. It’s not clear if there would be more exposure to accidental arrest and prosecution after hacking or virus infections, or a stronger idea of "absolute liability offenses".  

The White House is reported to support the bill.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kurio offers "child safe" small tablet


A company named Kurio has been advertising its “Kurio Kids Tablet with Android”  computers for children as having built in screening and very sweeping  parental  controls.  I saw the ad on CNN this morning.  The logo was “Kurio Now”.

Squiddo has a review of the product here

The company site seems to be this. The company also makes specialized tablets for uses, like for realtors.

Here’s another demo by Technosource.


Marketing for kids with kids-safe trademarks doesn't guarantee safety.  Back in the 1950s, there was a Saturday morning television series "Movies for Kids".  They were hardly that (films like "The Clutching Hand").  

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Silicon Valley shows increasing concerns about FTC proposals to strengthen enforcement of COPPA on social media


The Business Day section of the Tuesday, Nov. 6 New York Times has a detailed article by Natasha Singer on FTC proposals to tighten rules requiring parental consent before behavior of minors can be tracked online for advertising purposes.  There is a particular concern with social media and the technique of embedding surrogate user id’s in cookies in order to track minor users.

While the FTC idea may seem reasonable, there are concerns that this sets a precedent for requiring the same for adults (although I wonder how that would be different from “do not track”).  Furthermore, websites, as we know from the COPA (to be distinguished from COPPA) litigation, cannot always reliably decide who is a minor online.  There could be a very slippery slope for holding websites responsible for privacy abuses, grounds we already say last year with SOPA.

The story is titled “A trail of clicks, culminating in conflict: Proposal to bolster online privacy rules for children stirs up Silicon Valley”, with link here

There is also a lot of concern that minors will not understand online reputation issues.  "YouTube should not mean 'YouTracked'" one proponent said.

Generally, there does not seem to be much difference between Republicans and Democrats on these issues.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

AC360 interviews anonymous Internet troll after Gawker outs him


Tonight, Anderson Cooper's AC360 (and Drew Griffin) show interviewed Redditt troll Michael Brutsch, from Arlington, TX, who got fired from a software company in Fort Worth, TX after his identity (based on the pseudonym “Violent Akers”) was revealed by Gawker. 

The CNN interview link is here;  and the Gawker link is here.  

Some of the activity that he moderated  (including “jailbait”) would seem to border on illegal child pornography, in the female images that had been collected.

In the interview, Brutsch admitted, “Some of these things can be harmful to other people.”  But a year before, Reddit had given him an award.

Now, at 49, he says his life is ruined.  Moderators have “complete control” unless they are reported as violating specific rules.  Brutsch said that he has a gift for “pushing people’s buttons” and making them mad.

Anderson Cooper had reported on his online "character" a year ago without reporting his name.  Now that his identity is unveiled, the gig is up.  
 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Katie Couric covers the problem of protecting minors online on her own new show


Although I have covered NBC’s series “To Catch a Predator” on my TV blog (“The Unseen Tapes”, Nov. 15. 2009), I’ll out a note about Katie Couric’s episode today “How to catch an online predator” on my COPA blog. The link for the new show is here.

During the show, a Connecticut state police woman (Samantha McCord)  participate in a chat room and nabbed seven people as a decoy.

Several convicts discussed their motives and treatments, as did a clinical psychologist, who noted that only older minors can be targeted online.

One woman accidentally discovered that her husband was accumulating child pornography, and participated in a police sting to nab him.  He was not the man she married.

One older convict claimed that he did not know that he was talking to underage girls, which was a common excuse on the earlier NBC series.

Parry Aftab, attorney, noted that today smart phones and even gameboxes have become targets for criminals seeking children, and that parents must supervise them closely. Aftab mentioned that Section 230 (of the 1996 Telecommunications Act) gives service providers immunity from downstream liability for what users post (although I had thought that was mainly with respect to libel), but most reputable service providers have "terms of service" and will remove inappropriate contact that is flagged by other users and then is reviewed manually after the fact.  
  
On this particular episode, most of the crime was heterosexual (older men seeking underage girls) as was the case on the NBC series. 

See also Books blog, March 17, 2007, for review of Chris Hansen's book.  

Thursday, October 04, 2012

FTC fines operator of some celebrity fan sites for collecting minors' info illegally


Several celebrity “fan sites” have settled with the FTC over alleged violations of COPPA and FTC rules. The operator (of sites “BieberFever.com”, “SelenaGo,ez.com”. RihanaNow.com”, “DemiLavoto Fan Club”, the last of which no longer operates) has agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty.

The basic complaint seemed to be that the sites waived the requirements that children obtain parental approval before submitting requested personal information, when kids in fact did not obtain it. 

Internet companies say that COPPA rules, now enhanced for mobile devices, inhibit the development of sites for children, and could leave them to visit adult sites, now considered constitutionally protected since the COPA ruling in 2007.

The link for the story by Natasha Singer in the Business Day New York Times (Bits blog) on Thursday Oct. 4 is here.  

Monday, October 01, 2012

FTC will invoke stronger rules on data collection from minors


The Federal Trade Commission will be tightening rules on how Internet companies gather data on minors, often without parental permission, the New York Times reported Friday September 28 in a story by Natasha Singer. The title is “U.S. is tightening web privacy rule to shield young; target of data miners; marketers say the rules could reduce sites for children”, link here

That would particularly affect social networks for children.  It would sound as though it could raise questions about how aggressive social networking sites for adults (Facebook) could make sure that persons under 13 don’t get on, or isn’t collected from older kids.

The rules seem to focus on automated apps.

Sites that don’t track visitors directly would not be affected.

I don’t think there would be questions about site analytics (like Urchin or Google Analytics), but shrewd webmasters might be able to gather some information about visitors from these tools, because servicing companies sometimes encourage them to.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

COPA legal analysis would apply to minors and cell phone Internet access, where parental monitoring is more difficult


On Tuesday, the Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak about the access minors have to pornography from their cell phones. 

It’s not apparent right now that the legal or constitutional issues would be any different from those with COPA with respect to Internet access on regular personal computers and laptops.

Screening, however, might be much harder for parents to control, than it is on a “family computer.”

The story (which gets into the social consequences of prostitution and trafficking) is here.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Congress moves to strengthen children's privacy; major app developer fined by FTC for COPPA violations


W3 Innovations, the parent company of Broken Thumbs Apps, has been required to pay a hefty fine to the FTC ($50000) for alleged violations of children’s privacy rules (previous post about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) in its touch aps for the iPad and iPhone.

One of the apps, for example, asked parents to enter the child’s name, which the company would then archive.  The company apparently also collected email addresses.

Ars Technica has a story by Jacqui Chang on Aug. 31, link here

Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) has introduced a “Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011”, HR 1895, which he says would modernize COPPA, in view of technological capabilities in wireless, particularly to collect GPS (location) data, here

There’s a story on Paid Content by Joe Mullin, “FCC Busts App Maker for Collecting Kids’ Email Addresses”, here

W3 Innovations is here, and Broken Thumbs (obviously for children) is at this link

Thursday, August 02, 2012

FTC wants to upgrade privacy of minors online on geolocation, like apps


The FTC wants to expand protection of the privacy of minors on the Internet to collection of geolocation data and some other items, updating a 1998 law called COPPA, The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, link

The rules, which could go into effect in September, could also particularly affect “like” mechanisms on social networks, which would require parental consent.  It is less clear that it could affect blogs or websites that use third party ad servers.

The Washington Post ran the AP story early Thursday, link here

Monday, July 09, 2012

Social networks specifically for minors

Since ABC’s “Secret Millionaire” introduced Internet entrepreneur Hilary Decesare Sunday night (see TV blog for July 8), I thought I would peek at her company, “Everloop”, which appears to be a kids’ social network (for under 13) with kids’ apps. 

The basic link is here

“Loops” are “small communities” or rings, rather like  specialized friends’ lists in Facebook, Myspace, or Google+ (which may be concentric or overlapping), set up to enable publication to known lists of persons with respect to specific subject matter areas.  They come from the common phrase “in the loop”.  The site uses the phrase, “get loopy”.  I wondered about the “pranks you can play on your friends” – is that concept based on Ashton Kutcher’s “You’ve been punked!”

The site has plenty of facilities for easy parental monitoring and prevent cyberbullying. A good question would concern age-verification technology (in reverse), to prevent inappropriate adults from joining. 

But some people (like Michelle Obama, the First Lady) will ask, do children really need to be online to socialize at all?  Can’t they just interact in the real world?  That brings back memories of “backyard baseball” (really softball and sometimes whiffleball) back in the late 1950s.



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Age-verification technology is still too weak to be required legally


Nicole Perlroth sums up the difficult state of age verification online in the Monday June 18 New York Times, “Business Day”, in the article “Big Hurdle in Verifying Ages Online”.

The issue was central to the COPA litigation a few years ago, and on the surface, if Facebook really were successful with intended age verification (so far unexplained) for minors in “Family accounts”, it could bring back arguments to look at COPA again. The article notes that Facebook now has nine times as many members as in 2008, when it competed with Myspace. 

But the most promising ideas (webcam-related retinal or perhaps fingerprint scanning, or lie detection interviewing) are just in development.  Other ideas, like use of credit cards, were found very wanting during the COPA trial in 2006.

A national ID system, like that in South Korea of other countries, could solve the problem, but is objectionable in the US because of privacy concerns.  But a national system, perhaps tied to the USPS NCOA system, could also be useful in preventing identity theft and fraud.  There is always a trade-off between privacy and security.

The link for the story is here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Should "Cloud" and anti-virus products regularly screen images' digital fingerprints against known CP databases?


A 2009 story on CNET about child pornography and viruses (link) discussed on the Internet Safety blog Nov. 11, 2009, suggests that Cloud computing services implement technology to compare “hash marks” or “digital fingerprints” of known illegal images (as identified, for example, by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), to prevent some illegal images from being uploaded.

This sounds a bit like the fingerprinting and watermarking advocated by the ICRA a few years ago as a way of voluntary content labeling to protect minors on the Internet, as litigated in COPA (struck down in 2007).  Since ICRA’s budding system no longer exists, the value of this British group’s ideas might have been lost.

Connect the dots, if you will.  Could anti-virus companies also check digital fingerprints of images against the NCMEC database as standard procedure, as a way of making sure that home users don’t unwittingly download illegal materials, or have them downloaded by viruses, especially in a P2P environment?

I have not heard of this technology being available, at the home or office computer level.  But maybe it should be.  If it were, would it be a legal responsibility for home users to implement it, and would legal standards of proof in c.p. prosecutions change?

Thursday, June 07, 2012

State laws protecting minors may result in downstream liability for websites hosting ads (Backpage v. Washington State)

Backpage.com, owned by the Village Voice, is challenging a Washington State law which would make a website criminally liabile for hosting ads for inappropriate activity with minors.  Specifically, a website accepting ads for sexual activity would have to take "reasonable" steps to ensure that the parties placing the ads are not minors.

The problem is downstream liability -- a website may have no practical way to verify ages, without an operation requiring a lot of economic scale.

The law might run afoul of Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. On the other hand, the law appears restricted to ads, which makes it much narrower than was, say, COPA.

Anderson Cooper is discussing the matter June 7 on CNN on his AC360 program.

CNN has an editorial by Douglas Rushkoff opposing state laws like this, saying even CNN could be liable if a visitor's comment amounted to an illegal ad.  Here is the link.

ABC News has a story about the challenge to the law by Backpage, (website url) here.   On June 5, a federal judge placed a restraining order on the state law.

Tracy Clark-Flory has a story about HB 6251 on Salon here, and notes that the law only requires an "attempt" at age verification -- a concept that we know failed with COPA.  Salon was a COPA plaintiff. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Facebook's plans to allow under-13's to use site under "family access" and achieve COPPA compliance stirs controversy


Stories are circulating that Facebook is considering some sort of “family plan” to allow minors under 13 to join Facebook with all their activities monitored by parents.

Parental approval would presumably satisfy the requirements of COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (link in terms of the possibility of collecting information about minor users.
  
Talk has suggested that Facebook will sell family service as a way for extended family members to stay in touch with the kids.  But some experts feel that Facebook can’t replace the value of interactions in the physical world, or even with older, more mundane operations online (like email). 

PC Advisor UK has a perspective by David Daw on that question here

The original Wall Street Journal story (Monday) by Anton Troiavoski and Shayndi Raice is here

There is another practical question, of course, that we know well from COPA, whether there’s an effective way to screen users who lie about ages with some sort of adult-id system.  But it’s possible to imagine a future where biometrics (like retina scans) could change the game on that question. 

The whole adult-ID concept was shot down by COPA litigation, but at one time was regarded as a way to invalidate an even older law, the CDA (Communications Decency Act of 1996). 

Monday, May 07, 2012

ABC Nightline reports on porn addiction with religious teens in the LDS church; filters work


ABC Nightline, on Monday May 7, covered the topic of teenage addiction to pornography, with a Mormon family in Utah and a 17 year old boy who does well in school but hides the “cache”. A course at BYU claims that response a “normal male brain” will always respond to pornography, and self-discipline is necessary to control the issue. 

LDS has various references on the issue, the main one here

The church apparently has developed its own filters for family computers and cell phones.  

As of the time of this post, ABC Nightline had not posted this story online yet on its website (curious, it usually does).  The LDS admitted to ABC that girls also face the issue and it is biologically "normal".  

Pictures:  PSA bulletin board in shopping mall from ad council (pay attention to it if you have kids); interesting "ET" sculpture on Washington DC mall near Hirshhorn.

Update: May 8:

Here is the ABC Nightline clip:
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Teachers can be fired for "objectionable" Internet material posted before they were hired, even if posted by others; filters help some

A teacher in Oxnard, CA was fired for a having appeared in porn videos before she was hired as a teacher.
Curiously, the school’s computer system had blocked the video, so for a while the school didn’t find out and the Internet filtering actually protected her. But eventually students found it on mobile phones.

The Huffington Post has an updated story about Stacie Halas here.

These sorts of things have happened before, as far back as 1999, when a nurse was fired from a Scottsdale AZ hospital for appearing in porn videos with her husband, as documented on ABC 20-20.

But the new incident raises the idea that teachers could be fired if others posted questionable pictures of them in public places, and, particularly, tagged the pictures, even if the pictures had been taken before the teachers had applied for their positions.


Monday, April 09, 2012

My novel manuscript has a scary legal scenario


In my novel, in an early chapter, there is an incident where a hacker “hijacks” home users and starts deleting hard drive space and even cloud backups if the user doesn’t “give in” and not only buy fake “anti-virus software” but also download illegal material (c.p.). Then some of the people who have given in (to this “shakedown virus attack”) to save their data get arrested and prosecuted under “absolute liability” laws in some states.  At one point in the novel, a university stops posting its grades online because of fear of the shakedown and displays grades to old-fashioned way, on professors' doors. 

I don’t know that this has really happened, but it’s a scary thought. 


In fact, later Monday, MSNBC published a story about an individual in Indiana running an ISP who had an extortion operation targeting minors, link here

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bill would require violent video games to be labeled like tobacco


Here’s the latest flap in comparable areas of content labeling, HR 4204, the Violence in Video Gaming Labeling Act, introduced by Joe Baca and Frank Wolff.  It seems as though gratuitous video games would join the club of cigarette packs.  Legal but bad for you.

The EFF story is here

The govtrack label for the 112th Congress is here

This quite a far cry from the constructive Internet content labeling schemes, that have fallen by the wayside, that we’ve been considering here.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Santorum, despite conservatism, takes moderate positions on Internet censorship and supervision, supports iSafe


Recently (March 5), I reviewed Rick Santorum’s book “It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good” (2005), spurned by the controversy over his social conservatism in the GOP primaries.

Santorum says, with some irony, that we can’t afford a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach (with what he calls “No Fault Freedom”) toward the effect of sexually explicit materials on minors, partly because he believes that will desensitize them toward committed marriages in the future.

He talks about online censorship, but it’s very interesting that he stays in the area of filters for public computers and schools, and supports CIPA, but doesn’t get into the topic of COPA (this blog), or its forerunner the CDA, as overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997.  He doesn’t get much into the “downstream liability” controversy, and in debates he has supported moderate positions on the recent problems with piracy.  That’s a bit of a surprise to me, because the ease of “free entry” itself reduces the perception of many people that they really may need others some day.

On p. 333, he mentions the organization “Isafe”, link here.  ISAFE offers subscriptions to schools.

Isafe should not be confused with the Family Online Safety Institute, FOSI (link).  I still think that a content labeling system that had been developed by a British group named ICRA should be rejuvenated. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Droid and (iPhone) offer parents content ratings for downloadable apps


Having just bought a Motorola Droid with a new Verizon contract, I’m not real familiar with how its entire world works yet.  But last night, while on the Metro on the way to the Oscars party, I did the standard VCast application  update and sync download, clicked “agree”, and was greeted with a list of “content ratings” similar to movie ratings that apply.
   
I’m not sure how it works, but apparently the Droid offers parents some capacity to regulate the apps their kids can download.

I found some mention of this in a forums site here.

Rachel MacKinnon, in her book “Consent of the Networked” (Book Review blog, Feb. 25), says that the Apple iPhone is somewhat stricter in pulling inappropriate apps than the Droid, perhaps in a way that some would see as interfering with free speech, although private companies can “do what they want”.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Internet stings still catch a lot of people; are gay men "targeted"?


The Washington Blade has an important story today by Lou Chibbaro about the reported entrapment of gay men in chat rooms by police posing as underage persons.  The problem is that the police have been using sites not normally associated with minors’ use, as in the story (website url) here. And “customers” may have been looking more for experiences with drugs and with underage persons.

The Blade reports a significant number of arrests by DC Police.  There have been a few in suburban jurisdictions, such as Arlington (including one of a police officer a couple years ago).   A few teachers have been caught in stings.  I have not heard of any among people I know.  But someone I know was arrested in Dallas and convicted in 2007, and I am not clear as to the details as to what really happened. 

In 2004-2005, NBC Dateline created a sensation its “To Catch a Predator” series with Chris Hansen and a vigilante group called “Perverted Justice”, or Peej.  And one of the most disturbing cases of all involved Rabbi David Kaye, who was caught in a sting in August 2005.  Virginia did not prosecute him, but after nine months of FBI work, federal charges were brought against him by grand jury indictment, in late May 2006.  The federal prosecution surprised local media (as in this smaller newspaper story). After he turned himself in, he never got bail, and was convicted in September 2006 and cried at his sentencing (in the Alexandria federal court house) in December 2006, when he was sentenced to 78 months in prison.  Peej’s account, which has a rather lurid and disturbing chat log, is here. The judge’s opinion included a justification of the use of stings in rather narrow circumstances.  (See review of Chris Hansen’s book, March 17, 2007, Book Review blog). Kaye should get out in May, 2012.

About 75% of those arrested in the Dateline stings were heterosexual.  After the Virginia cases, most people were arrested after leaving the target house and encountering Chris Hansen (in Florida, Ohio, Georgia, California, New Jersey, and Texas, where one man, an assistant prosecutor, committed suicide). 

In late 2004, former meteorologist Bill Kamal, known to be openly gay, was arrested and convicted after a sting in Florida, and sentenced on federal charges.  The best account of his ordeal is here. He was released to a halfway house in 2008 (sentence completed in 2009). He used to work as a TV meteorologist in Washington DC in the 90s. Note the emotional tenor of the Internet coverage. 

Generally, in these kinds of cases, arrests occur when people show up for a meeting with someone (or often at a home) who turns out to be undercover.  But it is possible to prosecute someone just on the basis of the chat log alone, and this has happened in Maryland, as with a TSA employee chatting with undercover police officers in Florida. 

Should police be conducting these undercover stings when we need more officers on the streets, given DC's recent crime spree?

Anderson Cooper will cover this problem on his daytime show on Feb. 23 on ABC affiliates (link).  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Washington DC television station criticizes popular chat site as a danger to minors

I mentioned this briefly on my main blog, but I have since found a detailed "photo gallery" presented as a story on the website of WJLA in Washington DC, about the site "Chat Roulette", which the news story says is a "danger to kids", because of the users who typically troll the site.  The reminds me of the "Peej" scandal exposed by NBC Dateline's Chris Hansen starting in 2005, as well as the "Justin Berry" story in the New York Times a few years ago.

The link to the WJLA photo gallery (seven illustrations) is here.

"Chatroulette" links you to random people (hence "roulette") by webcam, so it isn't hard to imagine what may happen.

The report reiterated the idea that a "family computer" should be in a public area. This hardly seems practical if you have a kid in AP classes, or one with legitimate talents in areas like music or computer programming.  ("Anderson" today showed an example where a 14-year-old helped police solve a burglary of his parents' house, which he wouldn't have had the skills to do without having been left to teach himself.)

The report said that the site is protected from downstream liability by Section 230, but that would apply mainly to libel.  It sounds conceivable that a "nuisance", or a site created only for the purpose of creating harm could come under sanction. But the site would certainly appear to have legitimate uses for adults (and minors).  So the same sort of arguments already seen with COPA would appear if the site were legally challenged.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

"Do not track" debate could have special meaning for minors

Sunday, I noted some New York Times stories (on my main BillBoushka blog) on privacy, particularly in the area that credit ratings and even insurance premiums might be affected indirectly by data aggregation from social networking site use. 
  
This possibility ought to be thought through particularly with respect to minors.  The implication is that persons 14 or 15 might be hindering their future employment, credit or insurability prospects merely by affinity (indicating what they “like”) on social networking sites. If so, this is certainly morally wrong and needs attention. 

Monday, January 09, 2012

Government might conduct "Peej" stings with spam

I’ve gotten occasional emails that may be attempts to goad me (or any spam recipient) into conversations with minors.  One repeated one is a daughter seeking piano lessons (when there are obviously legitimate ways to find real piano or music teachers in one’s own geographical area).

I don’t know if this could be government planting stings of the Dateline-PEEJ kind, but the appearance of such emails is disturbing, and I suppose stings based on spam are possible.  I do not open them and mark them as spam, but AOL is not catching them as such automatically.  

Friday, January 06, 2012

The growing sophistication of social networking facilities can complicate the "implicit content" issue

There’s another wrinkle in the subtle undercurrent problem of “implicit content”: the role played by social networking sites, especially recently since Facebook and Google+ are offering various modes of “layered” friends’ circles who can receive different whitelists of posts. The concept (of concentric or maybe overlapping friends’ circles) is a bit of overkill for me, but it may beg a new legal or constitutional argument.

If someone publishes something for “everyone” that could be viewed as potentially self-incriminating, is the fact that it is in “public mode” mean merely that it is publication for its own sake?  The speaker, if he or she wanted to “entice” people (illegally), he or she could have used these newer social networking features.  (Of course, some of this functionality was available in the 90s with listservers, and other email-listing companies formed then over this idea.)  So a new argument, that “everyone-oriented” publication means something in and of itself, with no other “purpose”, is created.

My own experience was that Internet self-publishing in the older Web 1.0 world (like late 90s) did attract people, and generally for upscale purposes – mostly other political (especially “libertarian”) activists.  But in the past several years, especially after 9/11 and perhaps after social networking sites as we know them today were “born”, has been more that it tends to attract hucksters who would divert someone and try to get someone like me to sell “their” agenda. There's another good question: should someone be expected to accumulate a long list of willing "friends" before staring to publish? 

Perhaps there remains a lingering question about just how valid a “motive” one’s “vanity” or “ego” in publishing something provocative really is.