Shiver Me Timbers – Surveilling the Pirates

 

Tink : Buccaneer by HyperXP.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Tink : Buccaneer by HyperXP.com (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Online Piracy is an interesting topic, and there are many sides to the proverbial coin; equal arguments for and against, some of my favorites are:

  • People who download, wouldn’t pay to see it anyway; so there is no loss of income.
  • People who download are destroying a fragile industry.
  • I feel cheated and want to ‘preview’ the movie before paying to go see it.
  • By downloading you are hurting the workers (i.e. people like yourself) and not the corporation that you despise.

Seeing them written down they all seem a bit pathetic; in reality most people that download just want stuff for free.

A big part of the picture is that anytime something is shared between users via the internet, it is possible to be traced and tracked. Which was the case with the recent Australian court battle between the creators of the Dallas Buyers Club movie and iiNet (an internet service provider or ISP).

Piracy! by Brandon (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Piracy! by Brandon (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Internet pirates can be tracked in many ways:

  • As detailed at torrentfreak.com is to coordinate up-loaders ‘handle’ or user name with other accounts, such as Facebook, and correlate known data to provide an online image of that handle and once enough data has been collected they can obtain contact details and then inform authorities. One way to bunk this is to have separate aliases for any site you are using.
  • An anti-piracy firm will follow a torrent ‘swarm’ and note down IP addresses, then it will try to obtain addresses from the ISP’s; the ISP may or may not pass on the users details and then you can be located and charged or threatened with action (Karlsson 2015).

For the most part the mass up loaders are being targeted, in recent news the suspected creator of Kickass Torrents has been arrested, and the websites associated with it seized.

When individuals are targeted, it can be with tracked files and information provided by an ISP. However, many ISP’s are interested in protecting the privacy of their employers and refuse to pass on the information. If a person is doing something illegal – despite what anyone may think downloading copyrighted information is against the law – should they be held accountable, or should they have the right to have their identity protected? Like most things it is a case of once the door is opened…

The Internet and Privacy by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY-2.0)
The Internet and Privacy by Bernard Goldbach (CC BY-2.0)

But then should the line be drawn somewhere? Do we really need to be anonymous on the internet? How many times is there a story over some troll slinging horrific comments about some recent tragedy. Surely if these people can be found and held accountable that is a good thing.

My personal thoughts on downloading are, when a studio has intrinsically used bullshit promotional tactics to trick people into seeing a film that they fully know is well below par, then they have lost the faith of the community and deserve for further projects to be pirated. When a company has a high value commodity but chooses to release it in a manner that forces consumers to purchase other unwanted items, then they deserve to be pirated.

How can companies combat the hydra that is online piracy? Stop trying to remove its head and give people what they want – easy access at a reasonable price.

References

Karlsson, A 2015, ‘How likely is it you will get in trouble for downloading movies via torrent sites in the USA in 2016?’, Quora.com, retrieved 30/08/2016, <https://www.quora.com/How-likely-is-it-you-will-get-in-trouble-for-downloading-movies-via-torrent-sites-in-the-USA-in-2016>.

Dead or Alive; Drones and Surveillance

robocop by Roland Molnár (CC BY-SA 2.0)
robocop by Roland Molnár
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Do we fear for the police state, that may come with overuse of drones? After all, ‘…we are rapidly moving toward a future in which a majority of aircraft will be unmanned.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.235).

Drones… they are possibly without doubt the big bad scary of the surveillance landscape in modern times. Although drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) have been in development since the 17th century (Villasenor 2014, p.235). Why is it though that they have become this feared icon of surveillance? Perhaps it is because they can literally be anywhere. From high in the sky armed military drones, to the miniscule.

Not only that, but the user can be anywhere – certainly true for the larger military drones, and quite possibly – with the current price tags, controlled by anyone. Which in essence is the problem, at least with a fixed camera there is a possibility of knowing where to access the footage if required, but a UAV? Without seeing the user, it is practically impossible.

Sweeping the negatives under the proverbial carpet, UAV’s do have many real world applications:

‘…search and rescue, news reporting, crop spraying, air quality monitoring, after-the-fact crime scene investigation, surveying, disaster response, wildlife tracking, research into the dynamics of violent storms, spotting wildfires, filmmaking, and traffic monitoring.’ (Villasenor 2014, p.236)

Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)
Drone/mountain rescue van by John Mills (CC BY 2.0)

Even these as listed by Villasenor are not absolutes and it is worth mentioning that drones can and do go anywhere that a visual inspection is needed and which may be inaccessible by people. In fact, most articles posted about drones will list several pro-uses for drones, which demonstrates that there needs to be an understanding of how this technology can be beneficial. On the ethics of drone uses West and Bowman state:

‘Citizens doubt that the benefits of drones outweigh the risks to privacy; the deterrent effect on illegal behavior claimed by advocates may be less likely than the chilling effect on lawful activity.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.653-4)

It seems to be a ‘not in my backyard’ scenario. However, in Australia drones are being used and trailed by the police.

Perhaps it is their use in the military that has people afraid of what may happen as they, ‘…are the signature weapon of modern warfare, as more than 90 nations use them for reconnaissance, intelligence collection, and targeting.’ (West and Bowman 2016, p.650). The key word there is ‘targeting’; if I see a drone and feel that it is too close, would I feel targeted?

NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)
NYPD Drones by Bit Boy (CC BY 2.0)

(CLICK – for more on this protest campaign)

As drones are a relatively, in public accessibility, new technology the law has taken time to catch up, and for the most part responsibility of use relies solely on the sensibility of users.

For example, if a drone flew into your backyard, do I have the right to destroy it? If I did what would the consequences be? Should I have the relative right to privacy in my own backyard?

In a slightly different example, a family is in the park with a drone – I can see the user and I can see the drone, most likely it is recording. Do I care? Not really it is public space, I generally don’t feel the right to privacy.

In both of these scenarios privacy was the key word, a person should have the general right to some privacy and the home is usually paramount. Personally, I think it comes down to just one saying, ‘don’t be a dickhead’; and use UAV’s wisely before the government sweeps in and does it for you. Pocket Bikes anyone?

References

Villasenor, J 2014, ‘“Drones” and the Future of Domestic Aviation’, Proceedings Of The IEEE, 102, 3, pp. 235-238, Applied Science & Technology Source.

West, J, & Bowman, J 2016, ‘The Domestic Use of Drones: An Ethical Analysis of Surveillance Issues’, Public Administration Review, 76, 4, pp. 649-659, Health Business Elite.

 

Freddy’s coming for you… CCTV Surveillance in Schools

The main justification for installing CCTVs is to protect children… (Perry-Hazan and Birnhack 2016, p.423)

Currently in Australia, cameras are not allowed inside the class room. However, they are used in the school grounds and surrounding areas. Having the cameras outside a person may note that it is more for security of the buildings and to potentially scare off those whom wish to harm the students; but a camera in the classroom? Surely the sole purpose of that is to watch the children and that’s abhorrent and a breach of civil rights!

During actual teaching hours, a teacher is largely unmonitored and it can be difficult to get feedback on how to improve and become better teachers. It might be hard to believe but teachers want to teach, and they want to teach well. After three – four years of study it might be a little daunting to be thrown into a ravenous pit of eleven year olds with nothing more that a few weeks of practice. Any way that a teacher can review their own work is surely for the good of the school body.

 

In this video teachers discuss ways in which the surveillance of the classroom has helped in their ability to teach, ranging from self-assessment, picking up when students are not engaging with the teaching; all this with the added bonus that if a teacher so wishes they can review the footage together, and nut out problems as a team. It’s just one way to take a bit of the pressure off from the teaching staff.

 

Other benefits from the use of CCTV surveillance technologies include:

 

CCTV in Schools 2016 - R. Williams
CCTV in Schools 2016 – R. Williams

Like any new technology it is marked with skepticism and fear. Some preschools and childcare centres are already using surveillance in the classroom. Every day I receive an update of what my child is doing in class. It’s always something simple; a few photos and a cheesy blurb.

It also comes with an app. that I can use to login and view all the photos.

Screen Shot Kindyhub App - R. Williams
Screen Shot Kindyhub App – R. Williams

 

Besides surveillance in school isn’t anything new, take the School of the Air for example:

The Alice Springs School of the Air has been completely reliant on using satellite technology to conduct classes since 2006. REACT (Remote Education and Conferencing Tool) is the most powerful learning platform and provides the video-conferencing interface for all students. Email is also a significant tool for distributing and receiving course work and the use of web tools such as Google Sites, Edmodo and Dropbox is also allowing innovation in teaching and learning to take place. (Alice Springs School of the Air n.d.)

This technology allows teachers and students to record sessions and reflect back on them later. Wilson from Katherine School of the Air states that the footage can be recorded and is used for, ‘…teachers to review the effectiveness of their lesson (self reflection and feedback) and for hard to teach concepts for students to refer back to.’ (2016), students also had this option available to them, but it is not something that is expected, as they use the same software.

The use of CCTV in schools is just one form of surveillance, but many others have been used through time, such as the roll call and general reporting. CCTV and other digital means are just the new thing, is it really something we should be afraid of? Realistically it’s just a tool, and like anything its effectiveness relies in the hands of the user.

 

References

Alice Springs School of the Air n.d. ‘FAQs’ retreived 17/8/16, <http://www.assoa.nt.edu.au/the-school/faqs/>.

Perry-Hazan, L, & Birnhack, M 2016, ‘Privacy, CCTV, and School Surveillance in the Shadow of Imagined Law’, Law & Society Review, vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 415-449.

Wilson, S 2016, personal correspondence.

The Freedom to Play

doodle jump(Doodle Jump by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0))

Mobile gaming applications (MGA’s) have no purpose other than to be mindless time fillers; existing in a world where time is multitudinous. Maybe not time itself, it has no tangibility, how about ‘time-packets’? Little portions of time that slip by during the day wasted. Yep, that sums it up perfectly. MGA’s fill in these time-packets with their unobtrusive and mindless ways. Next time you’re stuck at the doctor for the bus, look at the people in the waiting room; that guy’s shedding some Angry Birds; that woman has dropped a slice of Zombie Highway; that kid… OMG he’s got a book!! Look away! Look away!!!

Ahem

MGA’s don’t seem to offer anything or take anything, they just exist. But do they? Realistically they are money making machines, aimed to target us when we are at our most vulnerable; like punching a guy while he’s squatting behind the bushes. When boredom takes over, the eyes roll back and maybe we’ll by some ‘Gems’ just to skip this annoying level. Ninety-nine cents a ‘Gem’ isn’t all that much; this is how they generate revenue.

Aha, but I’m too smart for all that jazz! Oh really… well there are other ways, more nefarious ways, that MGA’s make you pay for their brightly colored delights. After all it didn’t get to be ‘a ten-billion-dollar industry’ just by selling fictional trinkets (Biscotti et. al. cited in Zhang et. al. 2013, p.1487).

Some games have the ability to read data from your phone while you play it, and in turn be able to translate this data into a sellable commodity. One perfect example of this is Ingress.

2016-08-03

(Screenshot by R. Williams 2016 – Ingress.com)

Ingress is explicitly geared towards solving complex computational issues while also bolstering marketing apparatuses through the collection and processing of players’ behavioral data. Because surveillance is embedded into its game mechanics, Ingress produces a community where everyday surveillant labor is normalized as a valid system of exchange. It is, in fact, the gift that players continuously give in return for the privilege of play. (Hulsay and Reeves 2014, p.392)

Just like that, you’re turned into a mindless slave working for the numbers crunching machine. Although isn’t it better to have targeted advertising?

Not only that but you got to have fun doing it? So much better than having your Saturday morning ruined with some guy and a clipboard.

‘Just a quick survey sir?’

‘No dammit, I have dragons to slay!!’

[SLAM]

Most people are probably intrinsically aware that games are doing something. We all get to see what the game wants access to and usually have ticked yes or accepted the fact that our data will be looked at. There have been reports of MGA’s doing things like this for years, but we still keep playing them.

Is it possible that we actually do need MGA’s for what they provide? A slight distraction from the monotony of a life pause? Sure there are other ways of entertaining those minute packets of time, but what else fits into such a small space and is so endearingly convenient?

being watched

(Playing games by Nellies (CC BY-NC 2.0))

It’s all a part of living in the consumer society. We ourselves drive the advertising and if deep down we didn’t want it we would just stop. Back to work everyone, lunchtimes over.

References

Zhang, Z, Chu, D, Chen, X, & Moscibroda, T 2013, ‘Mobile Motion Gaming: Enabling a New Class of Phone-to-Phone Action Games on Commodity Phones’, IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing, vol. 12, no. 8, pp. 1487-1501.

Hulsey, N, & Reeves, J 2014, ‘The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Google, Ingress, and the Gift of Surveillance’, Surveillance & Society, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 389-400.