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.