In business and economic decision-making, data causes severe side effects – data is now plentiful thanks to connectivity; and the share of spuriousness in the data increases as one gets more immersed into it. A not well-discussed property of data: it is toxic in large quantities – even in moderate quantities.
Archive for 2012/06/04
Association of National Advertisers Strongly Opposes Microsoft’s Decision Regarding Internet Explorer 10 ‘Do Not Track’ FunctionPosted: 2012/06/04 in Education / Awareness, New Business Models, Online advertising, Privacy / Data Protection, Stats / reports
“It has been clear over the last couple of years in San Francisco and the Valley that the cult of personality in the tech world is shifting away from the Larrys and Bills and Erics – going away from the classic CEOs into engineers. Developers are a hot commodity,” says Kador, who left the safety of billion-dollar giant Salesforce.com to flex his developer muscle.
Tomorrow, the controversial new amendments to the Dutch Telecommunications Act will enter into force. Today, the new Telecommunications Act has been published in the Official Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees. The amendments are -for an important part- implementations of European Directives. The most important changes entail obligations to report data breaches, mandated net neutrality and strict rules for the use of tracking cookies. From tomorrow onwards, companies in the telecom sector have to comply with the new rules.
The Internet revolution teaches us that new technologies flourish when they are not subject to slow-moving agencies and barnacled regulations designed for an earlier era. Even when the market fails, antitrust and unfair competition laws provide a more-than-adequate safety net. Just ask Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, Google and Facebook, each of which has been forced to change business practices in response to complaints brought by governments in the U.S. and abroad.
The Internet has thrived largely because it has been free of government interference at all levels, from the U.N. to your local mosquito abatement district. As consumers and citizens move more of their activities online, however, legacy regulators are finding themselves with little to justify their continued costs. And the kinds of problems regulators were traditionally authorized to solve are proving more efficiently corrected by market forces and better engineering.
Those who are rightly opposing international efforts to regulate the Internet from the top-down should be equally concerned about similar efforts coming from the bottom up. And they should apply the same skepticism to national regulators, including the FCC and its international counterparts.
Efforts to “centralize decision-making power” over the Internet are a bad idea, no matter what kind of government proposes them, and no matter how noble their motives.
Two Google lawyers reflect on the case: APIs stay free, cost of business soars
Oracle loses copyright claims against Google on Java programming language
Here’s the only primer on SSD technology you’ll ever need to read
Virtually all of scientists’ deliberative communications, including e-mails and attached documents, can be subject to legal proceedings without limitationPosted: 2012/06/04 in Education / Awareness, Litigation, Stats / reports
Microsoft released an emergency Windows update on Sunday after revealing that one of its trusted digital signatures was being abused to certify the validity of the Flame malware that has infected computers in Iran and other Middle Eastern Countries.
“We have discovered through our analysis that some components of the malware have been signed by certificates that allow software to appear as if it was produced by Microsoft,” Microsoft Security Response Center Senior Director Mike Reavey wrote in a blog post published Sunday night. “We identified that an older cryptography algorithm could be exploited and then be used to sign code as if it originated from Microsoft. Specifically, our Terminal Server Licensing Service, which allowed customers to authorize Remote Desktop services in their enterprise, used that older algorithm and provided certificates with the ability to sign code, thus permitting code to be signed as if it came from Microsoft.”
A trade agreement such as ACTA can only be enforced by a larger economy against a smaller, for two reasonsPosted: 2012/06/04 in Copyright, Education / Awareness, Legislation, Public Policy, Stats / reports
First, the preferred means of enforcement is trade embargoes or penalizing tariffs – and when one part enforces those against a mutual trade road, both economies suffer, but the smaller suffers more.
The second reason is also the second method of enforcement, which would be military. A larger economy can ultimately impose its terms of trade on a smaller economy by the rattling of weapons, where the larger economy will have the resource advantage.
The Life Of Child Abuse Investigators: “Think of something, make it ten times worse, and we’ll have video to go with it”Posted: 2012/06/04 in Education / Awareness, Enforcement, Stats / reports, Tech Evolution
‘Worst of all is the sound’
Original article in Dutch: http://www.hpdetijd.nl/2012-04-06/het-geluid-is-het-ergste/
6th april 2012 - By Mark Traa
Someone has got to do it: looking at the videos and pictures of children being abused while hoping to find victims and perpetrators. The most experienced team of investigators can be found in the city of Hengelo, The Netherlands. Dutch magazine HP/De Tijd was allowed to join them for three days.
‘If all of this doesn’t get to you anymore, you have to quit the job’
Whenever Felix (53) turns his face 90 degrees, he’s able to look through a window. He’ll observe an elementary school where during the break dozens of children are playing on the school grounds, carefree. At the end of the afternoon parents will gather at the gate to pick up their kids.
As soon as he turns his eyes at his computer screen again, Felix will see children who are being sexually abused in front of the camera, in many cases by their own parents.
It’s not merely a coincidence that somehow such a video popped up today: day in and day out Felix and his colleagues have to confront a torrent of images, submitted for further analysis. Because that’s their job. Millions of photos and videos have passed the desks of the investigators of the child abuse team of the Dutch region Twente, IJsselland and Noordoost-Gelderland, established in 1996 in one of Hengelo’s precincts. Children posing in the nude, children masturbating, having sex with each other, with adults and with animals. Every limitation to brutality, to the imagination is totally gone. Felix: “Think of something, make it ten times worse, and we’ll have video to go with it.”
There won’t be many working environments where employees have a typical holiday scene as wallpaper on one computer screen and an image of two teenage boys having anal sex on another. Or where one can overhear a colleague talking on the phone saying: “What I got here is a boy in the nude with a Pokémon doll in the right corner.” Or where a co-worker enters the room, hands a hard drive to a colleague and casually adds: “Here you go, it contains bestiality,” with the colleague acting like nothing special has happened and is simply finishing his coffee.
Likewise, there won’t be many workplaces where someone states that he actually can imagine that a lonely farmer’s boy would make use of the sucking reflex of a young calf. But it has to be added, that particular comment by Gerrit (55) resulted in a negative response by another colleague. Not because of the topic, but because of the time of day: ten past eight in the morning.
No it’s definitely not the average office space, this microcosm that the seven experienced child abuse investigators in Hengelo have created. It has Christmas decoration everywhere. A depressing environment would only make working with depressing imagery much worse. Depressing colleagues have the same effect. That’s why lots of jokes are being told and pranks are being pulled. A detective asks whether the reporter wants to describe a murder case. And he then goes and pretends to strangle his co-worker. That level of comedy. And all of that using a local dialect. The head of the team, Henk Gerritsen (59) already noted that we shouldn’t misinterpret all these jokes amidst the gruesomeness: it makes the unbearable bearable.
And that’s why the discussions will be about the local soccer club, organizational changes and a soccer holiday that Ab (58) will undertake all the way to Madrid. But only two minutes later, that same Ab will be watching an amateur movie depicting an adult male putting the penis of a toddler in his mouth while taking a shower with the boy. We can hear the voice of the man: the boy is being encouraged to allow the man to do whatever he wants. Everything the victim and perpetrator are saying has been put on paper by Ab already. The movie instantly makes clear how the investigators operate.
“Have a look,” Ab says. He pauses the film and points to the edge of a black rubber mat that is barely visible in the shower room. Next to it we can a blurry little blue thing.
“And check this now.” Ab is pulling up a picture that has been made during a raid at the man’s premises. We can see the shower room. With the rubber mat en a blue mat that is located closer to the toilet. Those are the victories that are being celebrated here: the suspect can hardly claim that he had no clue of the abuse; apparently everything took place at his own home.
These ‘image investigations’ using the material that has been pulled from confiscated PCs, laptops, phones and cameras, is the core activity of the job in Hengelo. Seemingly unimportant details on and around bodies of the perpetrator and the victim can mark another phase in the overall investigation. It’s about the color and fabric of curtains and carpeting, the type of wood the desks have been made of and toys and pillows. You can make Felix very happy with a searchable database of faucets and radiators, returning elements in the backdrop of these images. “At first you’ll only see the bodies,” Jacaqueline (39) says, “but there will be a moment when you’ll start paying more attention to the surroundings. The paintings and other objects we’ve photographed during a search of the premises.”
A raid is the perfect opportunity to test one’s own instincts. Felix: “As soon as we enter a place, we know whether there’s a pedo living there or not. Seriously. We’ve been asked many times to describe our premonition, but we can’t. It’s a hunch that always turns out to be correct.” Sometimes there are more obvious clues such as a parent bedroom that’s really focused on kids, for example because there are a lot of kids games lying around. It’s not proof, but it is suspicious. Ab: “And when you know a person is single, has no kids nor nephews or nieces and still has pictures of kids hanging on the wall, then alarm bells go off too.”
Another such clue: collectors of child abuse images will almost always collect other types of innocent objects. That can be everything: coins, stamps. And strangely enough one always finds DVDs and other material of the Star Wars and Star Trek movies – a strange phenomenon that has also been seen elsewhere in the world. We have to guess for the exact reason. “Perhaps that they feel the need to live in another word,” Gerrit suggests. Ab: “I have difficulty with using the word ‘collector’ when we’re talking about child abuse images. Simply because it’s sort of a euphemism. These are people with hundreds of thousands of pictures.”
Every attempt to downplay the size and seriousness of the child abuse problem is futile when looking at the screens in Hengelo. Let’s first take a deep breath. Felix is showing a video that is providing instructions to the viewer, a PowerPoint presentation, on how a child can be abused. “Make sure you have a lot of lubricant,” is the first sinister tip. “If you’re playing with your daughter’s pussy, it will turn red for a while,” is another. We’re seeing pictures of candles and markers in hardly developed vaginas of very little girls. “When they’re five years of age, most girls will already be able to have the entire marker enter their pussy” the accompanying text states. Felix: “As soon as we find this stuff at someone’s place, we think: alright, we know there will be more.”
An example of ‘more’. Felix plays a video. We’re in a bathroom. A little boy, perhaps a one-year-old, is being undressed by a man who is only partially visible. It starts with the tenderness of parents undressing their children. But all to soon the man’s patience has worn out. The boy, now fully nude, is being grabbed and laid flat on a table, face down. His arms are being spread with force and are tied up. He has nowhere to go. The child is crying out loud. A bit later we see the man masturbating on top of the child. Then Felix stops the video. “I will spare you from observing the penetration,” he says.
These are images of an inexplicable brutality – the nightmare of every parent. What immediately comes to mind is: the sound. The scary sound of a crying child. It goes right through you. “The sound, that’s perhaps the worst thing of all,” Felix says, who was also involved in the investigation of Robert Mikelsons. “Pedos agree to that by the way. A crying child does not fit their fantasy: because according to them the children are asking for all of this themselves. They often replace the sound with music, Mantovani or something like that. I once saw how a 14-year-old girl was being raped. You could only hear Latin music, which pushed out every other noise. From that moment on I cannot stand that particular music anymore.”
Every one of his colleagues is echoing it: the sound is the worst thing. If possible, they turn it off. Equally disturbing, although this may sound strange: images of victims in normal situations. Ab shows a series of photos of two sets of parents with their kids in a zoo. Those are pictures as we all would take them: happy boys and girls, with elephants and giraffes in the background. But the exact same children were being abused by their parents around the same time, so they’ve told detective Gerrie (47), who is specialized in child interrogation. With that knowledge it only makes you angry when watching the happy pictures at the zoo. “Our rule of engagement is that the person who has conducted the investigation and analyzed all the photos, will not be the one interrogating suspects,” Gerrit says.
Cases where one can track down victims or perpetrators will be prioritized over downloaders of child abuse images if there’s no evidence that those downloaders have touched children themselves. Their confiscated material will however still be analyzed and with that we mean all the material that may provide relevant evidence. Big boxes full of videotapes – we can see Porky Pig and Lady and the Tramp – are ready to be played in high speed and simultaneously on six TV screens. In the same corner Jacqueline is playing 8 mm films which belonged to an elderly man who has been taken into custody for quite a while now. They appear to be videos made while on vacation in the sixties: we see slowly recorded material from Northern Africa. It does not contain anything incriminating, but can never be sure. Jacqueline: “Once we played a National Geographic video. At first it was a beautiful documentary but at the end child abuse was being shown.”
Due to the many Terabytes on the police servers (in Hengelo they store 42 million pictures) analyzing the downloaded material has become a routine effort. But it still has to happen. A computer can increase the efficiency by dividing videos into smaller bits and pieces which can then be analyzed simultaneously to see whether they contain any unauthorized nudity. André (51) uses this method to view a lengthy series of videos of what appear to be Eastern European teenage boys. It’s not always possible to guess how old they are. André is pointing to the screen: “One observes that pubic hair is already reaching the anus of this boy. That says something about his age. We also look at other body hair, tattoos and the size of the upper body. But it remains a difficult feat. Sometimes a certain age estimation will change the following day already.” All of the images will also be reviewed by a colleague. When still in doubt they’ll judge in favor of the suspect.
Again the rule applies that innocent material can be very valuable. Among the endless stream boys with dark and shallow eyes who are pleasing each other, a normal video pops up of two middle-aged men who have recorded each other while sitting at a restaurant, unaware of the fact that their PC containing child abuse images will eventually be confiscated. Felix clicks with a high velocity through the lengthy series of pictures an amateur photographer has made of his nude spouse in the bathroom. Clearly material that is only meant for private use, but again, it was stored on the same hard drive as the very dubious pictures of the children. “See,” he says while pointing at the lady, “this is how we can really enter someone’s world.”
The world of a suspect will crumble the moment the police is visiting him – it’s almost always a ‘him’. Felix: shortly before a raid we will walk past the home. Recently we looked through a window and saw a man, sitting on his couch, watching TV, with his children peacefully next to him. His wife was there too. You then realize that such a family will be destroyed five minutes later. You still go inside, because that father could be visiting the bedroom of his children that same night. In one go there will suddenly be five people in that living room. That’s when a family disintegrates. If we have to take the father with us and when his five-year-old daughter is walking down the stairs saying: “Bye daddy,” we’ll definitely look at each other for a moment. Gerrit: “We destroy relationships.”
“But that man happens to be the one who has caused all of it,” Gerrie adds.
Gerrit: “Some suspects are happy that they’re being arrested. They finally have someone to discuss their biggest secret with.”
Felix: “Everything is aimed at getting children out of their situation. We have been able to save nine children this year. Last year we saved 22 children and the year before there were 27 children saved.”
In Hengelo they’re no longer surprised when a confiscated PC contains 250,000 child abuse images: that appears to be the average amount. Thanks to proprietary software there’s no need to look at all those images because some of them have been identified during other investigations and will be pre-analyzed and pre-categorized. So typically 50% will have to be analyzed.
“The amount of child abuse images we find during an investigation is of less importance to us,” Edwin (47) explains. “We’ll look at the level of brutality and whether the images have been produced and distributed by the owner himself. We’re obviously aware of the fact that we’ll only get to see the tip of the iceberg. We’d love to have more time and resources to take it to the next level. The technology is there. There’s a lot of residual information, evidence is not being followed up.” Ab, a bit gloomy: “Our ambition to focus on the victims is not being shared by all of our colleagues elsewhere.”
That doesn’t make them happy in Hengelo, the thought that there’s so much more out there. What can one do with 75 investigators in the entire country? They say the figure will be doubled but that will probably not apply to the team in Hengelo. They have a picture on the wall of the Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ivo Opstelten, standing in the middle of the team in Hengelo. Child abuse investigations have the highest priority, so they say. But the day to day reality is that confiscated computers and hard drives filled with child abuse images have to be driven to and from colleagues at the digital investigations unit in Enschede, simply because there’s no money for a solid data connection.
The lunch break is being used to complain – as is happening at every workplace. On Wednesday the entire team will go outside to eat some fish. Spending more than a view hours at a time, watching child abuse images, will get to even the most hardened investigator. “Tears on My Pillow” is being played on the radio when the group returns to work, but nobody notices. “And we’ve got another one!” Felix shouts, still observing the pictures of the amateur photographer. Two nude girls in dubious poses were already clearly visible on the images but Felix was able to distinguish a third one, partially hidden behind them. The image is being enlarged and then the other colleagues see it too. The photos are deceiving because so much time has been spent on lighting and the entire setting, something less relevant to the average producer of child abuse images. But the end result is the same, we’re observing toddlers in the nude who are being photographed with – to put it mildly – less honest motives. It won’t do you any good if you’re telling Felix your part of a nudist family. He zooms in on the image and points out that the shoulders and hips of the girls are tanned: and that’s where we can see tan lines vaguely marking the shape of a shirt and underwear. “Those children are not used to walking nude all day.”
There will be a moment that these children will be interrogated. That could be done by Gerrie, who has to follow a strict protocol. She shows an overview of possible questions which have to be asked in a certain sequence. “I’m often amazed at the fact that children can open up within 15 minutes and disclose the most horrific things. Children have no reference. They think that something is normal. They cannot put something abnormal into perspective. A little boy who saw his sister being abused said: “My head doesn’t understand what I have seen.”
The amateur photographer will surely be prosecuted. That something like that is not always that easy is demonstrated when one of the investigators enters the room and discusses a new case: the computer of an employee at a charity (the reporter is not allowed to specify) has been found to contain child abuse images. But: he didn’t use his own private password. That will make this case a difficult one in court, the consulted public prosecutor has argued – everybody could have accessed that computer. “Well, in that case we’ll conduct a ‘keep-your-pants-on’ conversation.” To make absolutely clear to the man that, although he will not be prosecuted, he shouldn’t be engaging in these kinds of activities ever again.
It has to be said, it’s a rather schizophrenic working environment over there in Hengelo. Next to the screens that will be displaying child abuse all day, there are framed pictures of the family members of the investigators. Almost all of them have children of their own. And all of them are able to prevent both worlds from overlapping. Nobody has ended up with a more pessimistic view on humanity. Ab: “It’s all doable when you have a good working environment and colleagues with whom you can discuss these issues. If someone shouts ‘Oh, God!’ others will immediately circle around him. If someone only sighs, it will immediately be registered. Of course it’s all terrible, but a colleague at the traffic police will also see terrible things right after an accident has happened. If it doesn’t get to you, you should quit your job. That’s where I draw the line.”
Felix: “My kids are adults now. When they were much younger and I was working here already, I did ask myself whether I would be capable of something like this. If I could become one of them. The answer was no.”
Jacqueline, the mother of a nine-year-old boy: “I try to suppress the faces, the emotions of the children and really focus on the environment, looking for the details. And that we’re really here to help the victims is quite motivating. That’s why I’m doing this job.” Others are saying the same thing: they can cope with everything because they know that they’re saving children.
A good example of that is the case of a teenage boy from Almelo who – during the nineties – had been drugged, mistreated and abused. Everything was recorded on video and soon there were copies of the video being distributed among pedophiles. It seemed impossible to track down the boy and for a long time it was believed that the boy had died. Law enforcement in Amsterdam couldn’t crack the case for years. Until the tapes ended up in Hengelo and folks there suggested that the description of the boy should not be matched with data of possible victims, but with information about people with criminal records instead, Felix explained. Being in such a bad environment offered the possibility that the boy may have committed some crimes himself. “And bingo,” Felix says, “That was our breakthrough.”
The case of the boy from Almelo hit the news because of the size of the case and the gruesome acts involved. Felix shows a cardboard box with the original recordings in it. Fans of the material would pay a fortune for it. The computer is showing horrific images. Because of the work of the team in Hengelo the perpetrators were caught and the victim received clinical support. “This provides one with all the motivation one needs,” Felix says.
The investigators do have their annual talk with a psychologist. That’s a good thing but everyone agrees that support from colleagues is more helpful. Of all people they’re the ones who know how child abuse can affect you. That’s why they choose to keep partners out of the loop. “I don’t want this to be a burden to my girlfriend,” André says. “When I tell them at home that I’m working on a dirty case, she knows enough,” Ab says. And at birthday parties nobody is waiting for a child abuse investigator to tell people about his experiences at work. The detectives are part of a closed society of people who are being allowed to peek into what André calls ‘the definitive sink drain’ of society. “When I first arrived here, I saw a video of man who put his penis into the mouth of a baby. That’s sheer insanity, I thought. It really got to me for quite a while when I went home. How can someone be so selfish, only thinking about his own pleasure?”
The child abuse images are being kept away from unauthorized audiences. From the hallway nobody can see what’s on our screens. There’s an aquarium blocking the view. Felix: “In the old days colleagues elsewhere in the precinct would jokingly say that we were happily watching porn every day. We then decided to invite them. They themselves were allowed to pick a movie they’d like to watch. That turned out to be a gay movie showing a little boy being anally raped. Well, within one minute all of them were gone. Since then we’ve never heard from them again.” Gerrit: “Sometimes we get lawyers who want to see a video. Typically they will say after a view minutes: ‘You can stop now.’ There really still are people who think that child abuse is a picture of a nude little boy on the beach.”
The last names of the detectives have been left out of this article by their request