Almost every parent or grandparent will agree that child pornographers are scum. Child pornography isn’t something I want to condone. I do however, have concerns over the acceptance of using email scanning techniques to look for people who are passing pornography through their email. Here’s the problem as I see it and I would certainly like to be wrong about this, but I seriously doubt that I am. There are little to no protections of the individual. Protection from unwarranted search followed by “justified seizure”, become the new normal.
If you watch the CBS This Morning video their “expert” completely over simplifies the issues and the techniques used in scanning email to determine whether the message contains child pornography. She uses words that sound technical and sufficient to explain how email “may be scanned” if it contains words or images deemed inappropriate. Lets start with a brief background in order to understand this better.
All email must be scanned in order for this to be effective. Perhaps we’ve become so used to the explanation of, “it’s for our protection or security”, that we’ve become numb to how bad this intrusive behaviour can become. We want to protect our children so this seems like a logical step. It’s even doubtful that when people read this blog, they will be concerned about their privacy rights being violated.
Let’s define her words, algorithm: a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation. Broadly ~ a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer. Hashing or hash: a technique for locating data in a file by applying a transformation, to associate through a structure that can map keys to values. It can also be used to describe muddling up something, to chop into small pieces.
That still might not be all that clear. Here’s the problem I see with Google as well as other massive indiscriminate search techniques, everyone’s email must be searched in order for this technique to work. Where it all began is the idea we could use the Internet to search for anything we wanted, then various influential groups devised a plan “for our protection” and we then have the beginnings of another avenue for a police state.
Not everyone has a programming background. I do and that is why I want to bring this out for other people to see, because what sounds innocent and of value for the public good, can be used in malicious ways to harm innocent people as well. If for example you are one of many parents that have taken innocent pictures of your children when they were small without a stitch of clothing, and those pictures are digitized on your computer / phone, what’s to prevent these search techniques from surveillance of your equipment and identifying you as a possible child pornographer?
Remember, a search engine doesn’t have rational or cognitive assessment of what it sees, and from reports we witness of the misuse of police authority, what are our protections? Do we have any constitutional rights in the digital age or does the combination of corporation along with government reign as the new law of the land?
For further information on hashing, click on this link.