Algorithmic Law Enforcement

An article humourously titled Stop, in the Name of ‘Bots starts with:

Nowadays, it seems as if more and more law enforcement is being done by machines. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be up to the job. And the humans don’t want to take responsibility, either.

We now have traffic cameras and automatic face recognition in real life, and bots searching for copyrighted music and pornography on the ‘net.

Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever done spam filtering can tell you, getting the searches and filters right without introducing “false positives” is extremely difficult. Put another way, the data from these ‘bots is useless unless a human vettes it.

Of course, that’s boring, time consuming, expensive work, so why bother?

The lists have not even been culled to eliminate items that should never have been included in the first place. While most of the works identified in Exhibit 1 appear to be songs featuring George Harrison, the notice also demands removal of a file labeled, in part, “John Lennon, Yoko Ono And George Harrison Interview.mp3.” The notice further objects to a file entitled “Portrait of mrs. harrison Williams 1943.jpg.”

The brief also identifies a file entitled “harry potter book report.rtf” whose name and tiny size (1K) make obvious that it is not an illegal copy of the Harry Potter movie. Obvious to anyone who looks, anyway.

The problem gets even worse with ISPs who are afraid to object, and so will terminate an account based on one of these nebulous “copyright infringement” claims. There’s no incentive for RIAA and the FBI to filter their lists; who’s going to sue them?

(Thanks to Gerry Smit for the pointer!)

posted at 3:57 pm on Tuesday, October 08, 2002 in General | Comments Off on Algorithmic Law Enforcement

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