Criminalizing Identy Theft

Canada has the right idea:

The Canadian government plans to criminalize identity theft to give police the ability to stop such activity before any fraud has actually been carried out, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Tuesday. He said he would introduce legislation targeting the actual gathering and trafficking in credit card, banking and other personal data for the purposes of using it deceptively.
Identity fraud is already a crime in Canada, but gathering and trafficking in identity information generally is not.

Personal data is just that: personal data.
Canada and every other legal jurisdiction needs to go a few steps further and recognize that personal data belongs to you and that no one can have legitimate access to this data for any purpose without your express permission.
The related definition of personal data needs to be very broad and even in situations where one has given their permission for use the boundaries around this use must be very tight. Examples:

  1. using a credit card to make a transaction should trigger the legitmate use of a bank using that information to bill you but nothing more.
  2. Placing a cell phone call should trigger the legitimate use of the carrier using that information to bill you but nothing more. Any other records of where you have been that a cell company may be able to collect should be unusable by anyone for any purpose without your consent.

None of this has to be complex. A simple statement that it is a Class x felony to gather, possess or use someone else’s personal data without their consent should do.

The onus must be on the users of personal data to prove they have a legitimate use.

San Francisco Surveillance Camera Debate

Buried in an article reviewing the debate over the efficacy of security cameras in San francisco is this paraphrasing of a statement from the head of the housing authority:

Fortner said he knows that criminals don’t like the cameras, because someone in the Sunnydale public housing development recently ripped one off a telephone pole with a rope tied to a car. When the camera returned, vandals turned to an electric saw, cutting through concrete, steel and finally the camera’s wiring.

I suppose that someone becomes a criminal by definition when they destroy public property else what justification is there for this generalization.

However, this seems like perfectly fine behavior for anyone who thinks it is not appropriate for governments to be spying on them. Which should be, well, everyone except the government big brothers. Even they should know better.

Photosynth: Wow!

When I last checked Technorati showed 4250 posts about Photosynth so I expect this to be old news to all you well read folks.
Photosynth is the first Microsoft product (maybe someday) that really makes me sit up, take notice, and want more time to play with. Hell, I want it on my desktop now!
It is one of those things that you will not fully appreciate until you’ve taken it for a test drive. Nevertheless here are a few words from the developers:

Our software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, and then displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next.

For best results start with this brief presentation on Photosynth.
Now, if you have a capable machine (sorry MAC users, not yet) give it a try. I have it open in a Firefox tab on a relataively new Dell Optiplex GX 280 and it is mind blowing. However, it doesn’t perform on an older Dell D600 Latitude laptop.
Now that you have watched the video and, hopefully, checked out their demo collections your mind is running wild with the possibilities this brings to the way we view and live in the world.
Here is a review and links to some related products that are targeting a parallel space; some thoughts on the implications of a Photosynth/Facebook combination and if you think there has been a lot of discussion regarding pricacy issues and Google’s Street View read this and then start thinking about the pricacy implications of Photosynth.

To make it even more interesting put a product like photosynth together with terabyte flash drives in everyone’s pocket, micro cameras and audio feeds wired into their clothing and link each of these life logs into the net. Robert Sawyer in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy makes the case that life logs might be better kept private except under extraordinary circumstances. In the Neanderthal culture of this alternate universe life logging devices are mandatory and most real crime has disappeared as a result.