Wild, Wild Web  

rm_harshawj 53M
761 posts
6/22/2006 10:16 am

Last Read:
9/27/2006 3:16 pm

Wild, Wild Web

Does it really surprise anyone that the web has become a place for social networking? I mean really, could we as a people not have seen that we as adaptable humans would make use of our new toy called the Internet as a social tool? The clues were all there, were we that blind that we did not see the exploitation coming?

I am talking about cases of and violence against children (and other adults) initiated through the internet via social networking sites like this one. The darker side of human nature has found a new way of feeding itself and it is through these social networking sites. Wasn’t this an obvious trend? Let’s look at history which we have apparently forgotten.

Communications in a static state is a way of advertising the “darker” side of our nature. Since the time paper and printing human have used the medium to describe acts some would consider obscene. Drawings and etchings of sexual intercourse cropped up not long after the media became available. It was just us humans expressing ourselves in a more permanent form.

Photography was the next heavily exploited medium to purvey sexual content. In 1829, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, a Frenchman, brought us the advance. His first picture was a self portrait, care to take a guess what his second photograph was about?

Move forward a bit. I wonder how long it was after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone that a pair of amorous lovers were talking dirty to each other. There is no recorded date on that one, but I would bet it was not too long before this sexed up couple got off on hearing each other moan in ecstasy via a wired transmission.

Of course out technology was not limited to photos, writing and audio and before long Thomas Edison was bringing us moving pictures. We do know that the first pornographic movie was filmed (recorded) about 14 years later. Why the lag time? It was a very expensive process and there was not call for it just as the new technology was breaking out. But since that first porn movie it has been down hill since.

We move up to the next significant advance in communication, television. I do not have any facts on early television and if lascivious programs were broadcast, but I would suspect that because there was no way to effectively record and distribute the recordings that it was not immediately used in the manner of which we are speaking. But then again, that’s where Sony and Panasonic come in. VHS and BETA hit the market and the mass porno industry was born. If you don’t think this medium was hypnotic and appealing, ask Bob Crane.

Finally we come to our current situation and the common use of the Internet. Arpanet (the original name of the Internet) was used to pass along information for the military and universities, a wonderful advancement. But of course when humans get bored we turn to our favorite subject and that is sex. Before long we were passing along ASCII files that when printed showed lovely nudes or told sex stories. Public Bulletin Board Systems hit the seen and people were socially interacting and meeting even back then (call it late ‘80s and early ‘90s). This worked and there were more than a few marriages brought about by the interactions on the BBS. Today we have the web which is nothing more than a very advanced BBS system (ok, it is more than a BBS, but the same dynamics are in play.) A few years later and scanners brought us full color bitmap swapping. Then we were inundated by email advertising and offers for a hot date via the Internet. Along come dating sites and of course more “all purpose” social sites like AdultFriendFinder.

So here we are in a culture that is inundated by the possibilities of the Internet. Most of us have a computer and if you are reading this you certainly do. We as adults are exposed to the new medium and we go into it with certain awareness that there are all types of people inhabiting the net. The difference we have today is that we are also exposing our children to it. In all the above cases (from print to video) we as adults were able to protect our children because of the static nature of the pornography. If the kids could not physically get their hands on it, they were ok. Today on the web it is all too ease to get a hold of it. Communications in the past were such that adults could control who talked on the phone, what letters we may receive in the mail, not so today. Our children are exposed to a fully adult world and hence the problem.

Let’s put aside the whole issue of privacy for a moment and talk about interaction on the web. The web is such a place that anonymity is everything and as we chat over the web we have absolutely no idea who we are really chatting to. We may even think we are chatting with a friend only to find out later that your friend had his/her password stolen and the person you thought you were chatting with was not your friend at all.

An assumption of trust exists over the web as it does in real life. In life we as adults use our judgment and assign trust where we need to. We do not allow our kids to exert similar measures of trust because they have not had the experience to do it wisely. But over the Internet we should not assign trust as easily because we do not know the person we are chatting with and do not have the advantage of face to face experience to rely on. We are literally assigning trust blindly, but as adults we know the risks. This assignment of trust is a very adult privilege.

But what happens when children are given that same privilege of assigning trust? Well the results are obvious, they get taken advantage of. Be it swindled out of money, information, or something more dangerous, children are not up to making decisions that could potentially harm them permanently and should therefore not be allowed to interact on the Internet in the same manner as adults. Hence we have the problem we are facing today.

There is a basic design flaw in the Internet, it was never meant to establish identity. Yes there are protocols that establish identities of machines on the Internet, this is crucial for the system to operate, but it does not extend to the humans using the machines. This is a huge flaw and thus establishes the basic anonymity of the Internet. But even the identification of the machines on the Internet is not foolproof; this fact has been the hackers’ stock in trade for years. Now we have more flaws.

In real life when you meet someone you identify them. There is a whole set of data that you use to make the identification and thus there is no doubt who they are. The Internet does not have this direct exchange of information so any information you do get is tainted by doubt.

I am going out on a limb here to make the following proclamation: “There can never be a secure Internet because of the nature of the Internet. When identification or data passes beyond one layer of interface is it therefore not possible to trust the information fully because the data could be tainted even through just one layer of interpolation (the interpolation being that of the interface itself).” I could masquerade as you and you as me and who would know the difference because it is machines talking to machines and the human element is obscured.

I was talking to a guy the other day and he was talking about an encryption that was unbreakable and perfect. I told him that there was no such thing as a perfect encryption, if it can be encrypted it can (and must at one point) be decrypted. Otherwise what is the use of encryption if it cannot be decrypted? Logical right? Assuming that it can be decrypted, it therefore follows that someone other than the intended person can decrypt the encrypted message. It may take a while to break the encryption without the key, but given time it will give up its’ secrets. And if we know other facts about the information we could break it even faster.

So where is this all going? Why the tour of human sexuality and media and the flaws of Internet Security and Cryptography? Simple, you can never know who you are talking to on the web and no amount of security can change that, only make it less likely in the long run that you will be fooled, but will never be foolproof. This being the case we can not protect our children on the web by adding more “security” protocols. The more we add the more the people intent on breaking them will break them and it is a never ending cycle of one-upmanship. There is only one way to break the cycle and that is not to play or play with the risks well in mind.

So when I see that Myspace.com is adding more “security” to their site as a response to the predation of minors on the site I have to laugh. Does anyone realistically think this will stop the predators? No, all it will stop are those that are not determined. The predators will don new masks and go about their business and the added security will mean nothing. Even the “Age Verification” method of determining identification is not foolproof. Kids wanting to get on will steal a credit card from the rents and voila, they are on as an older person. Now the problem continues.

Let’s take the next step in security for a moment, and that is a biometric type of identification. So you scan your retina and compare it to a database of other retinas to establish your identification. Wow you exclaim, that is brilliant and should work for we are now verifying identification based on your unique biological information as we may in real life. Sorry… Nope… Not a chance. So we send information over the web based on a scan, where did that information come from? Did it come from the scanner just now or is it from a file? What is it comparing to? Did the information in the database come from the actual person it is describing? Is the matching information about the person correct in the first place? Sorry, again we are working with layers of interface that can always be fooled or hacked. There is no real security on the web, just good enough security.

So we are faced with the age old dilemma, will the parents monitor the actions of the children well enough to protect them. This is the real issue at hand. Before the Internet it was totally up to the parents to protect the children from the social predators, but today we are counting on technology to do the same thing. We are getting lazy as parents and it is taking a toll on the children. Talk about irresponsible, we as parents know there is risk for children on the Internet, yet we are not doing anything about it collectively and individually. We complain that it is the fault of the makers of the Internet or the operators of a particular site. Shame on us, we are just looking for scapegoats for our lack of responsibility to monitor our children.

Maybe there should be an age limit on the Internet. Like alcohol and tobacco, you cannot use the Internet until you are 18 or 21. I would actually not be opposed to that. It may sound extreme, but it would force us back into a role for our children. We would have to help them with their homework, keep an eye on them and not let the idiot box entertain them the whole time. Maybe they would go out and play when not in front of the computer? Maybe they would be more physically fit? Maybe we should do the same thing with their cell phones? There is no age limits on computers and cell phones, but that does not mean that maybe there should be.

Granted, taking away computers and cell phones from our children is harsh, but then again if it is the law so be it. After all, we love it when the government controls our lives, it relieves us of having to think and taking responsibility for the development of our children. Opps, but this would force us to take more responsibility… damn.

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