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Rule 34, meet Kafka

There's nothing terribly new about the Picturephone; video telephony goes back to the 1960s, and was a very long time catching on. I myself remember one excruciating intercontinental video conference from 1994. (The problem with using it for work is that you can't look away from the camera, relax, or otherwise show any sign of weakness or humanity. And it doesn't get you much extra, over a regular phone call. But I digress.)

Over the past decade, webcams have become ubiquitous and we've gotten used to the occasional skype or other video call. And there communications go, the spooks follow ...

It turns out that the British equivalent of the NSA, GCHQ, has been spying on Yahoo webcam users. And they're a bit upset by what their Optic Nerve program revealed.

For starters, it turns out that 3-11% of Yahoo! webcam traffic involves "undesirable nudity". Which presumably means the users are not merely baring their faces at the cameras, but baring their other bits, with rather more enthusiasm than Big Brother's salaried employees are happy about. It's nice to have a figure for just how much of the internet is for porn; more amusingly, the serious people at GCHQ seem to have been taken aback to discover that people on Yahoo! were actually broadcasting their amateur action for all and sundry to see.

The deeply serious spooks tried to spare the sensibilities of their employees by employing automatic image porn filters. Unfortunately naive porn filters block images on the basis of how much of the picture consists of flesh tones. In the case of video conference calls, this turns out to be too much: they were getting lots of false positives (images classified as pornographic that were not in fact so), and as the whole point of the program was to trial face recognition software in order to detect Bad People Discussing Terrorism On The Internet, this was a bit of a problem.

More hilariously, GCHQ is not a law enforcement agency but part of the defense establishment, and the UK has one of the most draconian child pornography laws in the developed world. Possession of child pornography images is a strict liability offence — intent has no bearing. Only a handful of categories of people are permitted to possess this material: police investigating a crime, some forensics specialists, lawyers and judges and other people involved in a trial. GCHQ personnel stumbling across images of child abuse could be committing a criminal offence. And possession or dissemination of indecent material (pornographic but not criminal stuff) on government computers? Oh dear, the mind boggles.

I am still trying to get my head around the implications that the British government's equivalent of the NSA probably holds the world's largest collection of pornographic videos, that the stash is probably contaminated with seriously illegal material, and their own personnel can in principle be charged and convicted of a strict liability offence if they try to do their job. It does, however, suggest to me that the savvy Al Qaida conspirators[yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms] of the next decade will hold their covert meetings in the nude, on Yahoo! video chat, while furiously masturbating.



So sexually nude minors are GHCQ's crypto-nite, to coin a phrase?

In other words, GHCQ inspires the sexual abuse of children because that's the only material they're *actually* not allowed to look at?


This leaves the question, how much of the nudity on Yahoo is desirable?

And it doesn't get you much extra, over a regular phone call.

I actually disagree. I don't have great hearing to begin with, and it's even harder over the phone - with video, it's easier to see who's talking, and facial expressions give me a lot more context.

Plus, being apes, there's just something nice about talking to an actual face, instead of a disembodied voice. (And I tend not to drift off and stop paying attention quite so much. But that's my problem, not everyone's.)



More to the point, if you want to conceal your chat sessions, use all the disgusting imagery you can find of, say, [DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK] Fournier's Gangrene as background.

It may not stop them stumbling over your terroristic plot of terror and prosecuting you, but you can go to jail happy in the knowledge that you made at least one spook throw up in the process. And if you intercut with your mum's baby pics you can plausibly claim they're guilty of possession of child pornography, too.


>>> It does, however, suggest to me that the savvy Al Qaida conspirators[yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms] of the next decade will hold their covert meetings in the nude, on Yahoo! video chat, while furiously masturbating.

Isn't this what they do anyway? Metaphorically, at least?


All those illicit viagra distribution rings are clearly Al Qaida front organisations.

We're hypothesising that the child porn crazies would use Yahoo, but reports on court cases suggests the stuff is distributed on some sort of dark internet.

Have there ever been any reports made by GCHQ to the Internet Watch Foundation or CEOP?


So the big doughnut-shaped building in Cheltenham may legally be classified as a paedophile ring?


What's the age cut off for child pornography in the UK?

In the US it is 18, which leads to an odd situation where people can legally have sex but not film themselves doing it. Or where a 16 year old can undress in front of her boyfriend, but is a child pornographer if she texts him a picture of herself in the shower.

If governments have been intercepting that sort of stuff, it looks like they may well be the biggest child pornography ring in history.


In the UK, 16 year olds can legally marry (with parental consent) or have sex (without), but AIUI the age cut-off for child porn is 18. So, yes, a married couple can have sex but if one of them sends the other a selfie it's child porn.

I think our police and prosecutors are sensible enough not to push a teen sexting case all the way to a jury trial in crown court -- prosecutors and judges aren't elected and are more interested in dealing with real crimes -- but have no non-anecdotal data: my understanding is that in general such cases would usually result in the sender receiving a police caution (a formal notice that they have committed an offence, acknowledge that they did so, and that the police are exercising their discretion not to prosecute on this occasion -- but Don't Do It Again).


"people on Yahoo! were actually broadcasting their amateur action for all and sundry to see."

This isn't about broadcasts, it's about chats between two people.


I suspect they also get entered on the Sex Offenders' Register, which if so would prevent a number of careers.

"We would never employ you as a teacher, you're marked down for paedophilia."
"But she was older than me!"


One of the things the spooks noticed was that there were some channels which were one-to-many:

'Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography'

[In the US] a 16 year old can undress in front of her boyfriend, but is a child pornographer if she texts him a picture of herself in the shower.

I'm not sure about the age limits here in the UK, but at a school Internet safety meeting with a Police Child Protection Officer a similar case was mooted. In the UK it would be the receiver of the text who was in trouble for possession of child pornography, and assuming they're living at home their parents could go on the register of sex offenders - if the parent is a teacher they could lose their job!


It does, however, suggest to me that the savvy Al Qaida conspirators[yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms] of the next decade will hold their covert meetings in the nude, on Yahoo! video chat, while furiously masturbating.



but at a school Internet safety meeting with a Police Child Protection Officer a similar case was mooted. In the UK it would be the receiver of the text who was in trouble for possession of child pornography

That's daft. If possession of child pornography is a strict liability offense, it's a license to send anyone you sufficiently dislike to jail.


Easy way out
End the "strict liability" requirements - for anything, actually.
I would imagine GCHQ are already lobbying for this, very quietly.
In the meantime, you really couldn't make it up, could you?


It does, however, suggest to me that the savvy Al Qaida conspirators[yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms] of the next decade will hold their covert meetings in the nude, on Yahoo! video chat, while furiously masturbating.

Clearly a cunning plan by GCHQ & the NSA to sap the purity and essence of their natural... fluids.

you really couldn't make it up, could you?

Apparently they can.


Um, IANAL, but the child protection act gets really complicated. A person in full time education under 18 is a "child" for various legal purposes but can legally have sex with whoever they like, including their teachers.

The educational establishment usually has ethical guidelines that prevent staff having sexual relationships with any students, even those well over the age of 18. Some limit this to those they are teaching others just make it a blanket ban.

But the law is rather draconian as written - so far it's applied rather more sensibly. They look for intent to seek out the images, and, as with the law on statutory rape they look at the age difference. A girl sending her boyfriend a nude shot from the shower is theoretically getting him into trouble - but if he's within a year or two, they won't do anything. If he's 20 years older and persuades a lot of girls to do it, they will. (And, of course, you can swap boy, she around for gender and sexuality preferences as you choose.)

The law is an ass and could be horribly mis-applied but generally there is some common sense applied. You'd like to think it would be in the GCHQ case. If not, I'd love to see the video as the coppers turn up to serve the warrant for the servers!


End the "strict liability" requirements - for anything, actually.

I'd prefer to see a defence of "involuntary possession" -- if someone sends me something nasty without my consent and I delete it immediately or report it to the police, that should void the "strict liability" constraint.

(Similarly: if somebody throws an illegal handgun over the wall into my garden, I shouldn't be charged with possession if my immediate response is to call the police/hand it in.)


The educational establishment usually has ethical guidelines that prevent staff having sexual relationships with any students, even those well over the age of 18. Some limit this to those they are teaching others just make it a blanket ban.

When I was an M.A. grad student (mumblety-mumble) years ago, they told us: "If you are a teaching assistant, DO NOT HAVE SEX WITH YOUR STUDENTS". This was part of the first-day orientation. This is good for both the student, the T.A., and the university.

About the same time as I began my M.A., the Canadian Supreme Court threw out a proposed child pornography law-- the justices realized that the law as written would make illegal any nude-child pictures. Which means that my parents (for example) could have been prosecuted for having pics of my brother and I in the bathtub when we were four- and two-year olds.


Thanks for the laugh. You win the internets tonight, as far as I'm concerned.

(Similarly: if somebody throws an illegal handgun over the wall into my garden, I shouldn't be charged with possession if my immediate response is to call the police/hand it in.)

There have been successful prosecutions for handing such weapons in. Apparently they should have been left where they were and the police called.


yes, here we go

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.

Read more:


I guess there is quite some potential for ding the next Al-Quaida convention at a nudist resort; might be somewhat difficult to do the fiqh necessary to justify that

but AFAIK children below a certain age are somewhat exempt, which makes for good potential.

On another note, instituting some system of mahram might do the work:


That is all.


The lesson is that if you find a gun in your yard, quickly throw it in your neighbor's yard or the street. It is the only way to be safe.


Technically both would be in trouble in the US. The person taking the photo for producing and distributing child pornography, and the person receiving the photo for possession of child pornography. Though if you turned it in or it was done accidentally you might be OK. There have been some prosecutions in both cases in the US.


I interviewed Arno Penzias at Bell Labs for OMNI. Re Picturephone, he noted among other social-context challenges to widespread use: "if you leave the video off, people are bound to wonder what you have to hide."

This post suggests several answers he may not have had in mind...


I think, from reading the excerpts in context, they hand counted the user IDs which showed "undesirable nudity," rather than run the videos through a flesh pixel counting algorithm.

Then they used that proportion to come up with a bad statistical estimate of the proportion of nudity in the webcam footage.

But now I'm curious about *which* flesh tones are counted in naive porn detection algorithms.


A webcam's field of view is mostly full of the user's face, which means a large proportion of the pixels of the image are flesh-tones; naive porn detection algorithms apparently assumes this means "naked person over here," which must have resulted in a truly hilarious false positive rate.


I am reminded of an apocryphal story about an early porn filter that blocked any images with lots of flesh tones. This turned out to block lots of pictures of faces.
So facial recognition was added. It turns out that "there is a face taking up much of the picture" doesn't reliably indicate that something is not-porn.


As resident legal anorak, it's not a strict liability offence. Section 52A(2) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 provides for defences that the images were sent without having been requested and had not been kept for an unreasonable length of time, and that the accused had not seen or did not know the image to be indecent.

By the by, look at what the section number of the extreme pornography offence in Scotland in the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill as introduced was:


There is a memorandum of understanding governing this which may apply so people monitoring networks and pornography need not fear prosecution. So that, for example, someone monitoring a network to stop child pornography is not prosecuted.


It's not the main point of the post, but

> the whole point of the program was to trial face recognition software

What happens to facial recognition when a project like finally gets off the ground? What's left when you have a video conference between cookie cutter avatars, all using voice morphing software? Speech patterns?


And it doesn't get you much extra, over a regular phone call.

I was involved in a whole series of videophone and videoconferencing experiments/studies for business use back in the 1993 time frame for a US phone company. The lessons from that time have largely been ignored:

  • Sacrifice everything else in the video -- image size, color quality, etc -- in order to get the frame rate up to 13 or so fps. That's the point at which it's possible to determine lip synch. How much can you sacrifice and still have usable video? This much, if the frame rate is high enough.
  • Lip synch is critical. At some point early on people will turn away from the video, or cover it up, or something rather than continue watching it if it's not synched with the audio.
  • Latency (delay) is also important. Getting latency down implies some trade-offs on compression algorithms, image size, etc.
  • The principle use of video in a conference is for body language (ie, Susan has something important to say but is too polite to simply butt in). Camera shot should be from the waist up. Small windows are okay because you can reliably send body language with a really limited image (see above).
  • What you wear is important, but not for the reasons you might think. Coding up a patterned shirt takes a lot more bits than coding up a plain-colored one. Everything else I've listed is easier when you're not wasting bits trying to code up that paisley print :^)
  • Some sort of shared piece of paper on which everyone can paste imagery (include pages from a document), point, scribble, type notes, etc is much more useful than the video once people get used to it. Watching people fight over the pointer is amusing.
  • Recording the packet stream so people can go back and review (what was Sam saying when he typed that cryptic remark on page three?) is really useful.


Meanwhile in the 51st state, er, Canada a teenage girl was found guilty in January "of possessing and disseminating child pornography after sending text messages containing naked images of her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend."

Her lawyer is appealing the conviction...

From the CBC Story:
The teen's lawyer Christopher Mackie says they are launching a constitutional challenge against Canada's child pornography laws as they apply to people under age, claiming the charges amount to age discrimination.

"Originally, those provisions were created in order to protect children, so is it appropriate to use those provisions now to prosecute children?" Mackie said earlier this week.

The director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association Micheal Vonn agreed and said this isn't what the laws were meant for.

"It's obviously absurd.…The unbelievably heavy hand of criminal law cannot be used as an educational tool and a deterrent in this fashion," said Vonn.


It does, however, suggest to me that the savvy Al Qaida conspirators[yes, I know this is a contradiction in terms] of the next decade will hold their covert meetings in the nude, on Yahoo! video chat, while furiously masturbating.
Isn't this what they do anyway? Metaphorically, at least?

Pretty much. Sifting through the results at townhall/breitbart/hotair/redstate is left as an exercise to the reader.


Since the legal age of marriage in Muslim countries is often 9 (with some schools of thought going as young as 6), it wouldn't be hard for Muslims to cause all sorts of trouble (depending on what the Koran has to say about webcams, of course, but I've greatly underestimated Mohammed if he addressed the issue).

We've been offending their sensibilities regarding sex for quite some time, so the turnabout is a strange sort of justice (plus several ordinary sorts of revolting).


Actually, the legal age of marriage of 9 might be from a case in Saudi-Arabia, the situation in Qutar might be similar. Most Muslim countries have a legal age of marriage between 16 and 18

Funny thing with the age of consent, to high is bad, too low is bad too...


That's pretty obviously the Prophet's marriage to Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr, who is herself a very significant player in early Islamic history.

The traditional account has her marriage at age 6, and the consummation at age 9, which is what appears in Wikipedia. It's a claim that in recent years has been used to blacken Islam.

That's the version which is in Wikipedia. There are other hadith which make her as much as ten years older, and it is sort of odd that none of this Islamic dispute gets mentioned. It also makes more sense of her reputation as a witness of early Islam if she were older.

An American source biased against Islam? Surely not!


Oh yes, the good old Aisha story, AKA "if you talk about the sex life of people I like you're a feminazi or religious hypocrite, but it's OK if it's one of the other guys"; actually, marriage of pre-teens was not that unheard of in Europe and the American colonies much later:

Thing is, according to wiki most Muslim countries have quite normal age of marriage, even Iran. As already noted, Saudi-Arabia is as usual an exception:

Also guess who is the biggest sponsor of Islamism. And then see who is the biggest pal of the West in the region. Not that Russia backing Syria is any better...


I've been thinking about countermeasures.

An obvious one is to modify your webcam to inject a 'toxic' image every hundred frames or so. Something like a pair of huge and hairy buttocks tattooed with 'F*** THE CHELTENHAM STASI'.

Unfortunately there's only a 1/100 chance of GCHQ's frame capture grabbing that image.

Worse, it's a kind of 'subliminal advertising' and I hesitate to ask what effect it will have on people who hold regular webcam conversations on Yahoo.

Another approach: popular resistance. Swamp the snoops by running random wecam chats all the time - or an hour a day - on a significant percentage of desktops in the UK. These 'sessions' should consist of tattooed hairy buttocks and shaved Womble pr0n interspersed with encouraging messages about GCHQ staffers' contribution to the practice of intensive animal rearing.

Mybe Yahoo could mod their webcam chat software to do this anyway. Although I think it will be difficilt to make a pitch to their executives without a very careful choice of words.


Except it's so EASY to have "strict liability"
Who cares if a few innocent people get sent to jail & have their lives ruined?
This is what the EUHCR SHOULD be for, as opposed to allowing violent criminals ....(etc ad nauseam) ...

There was a recent case, where a widow in her late 60's or early 70's found her late husband's (illegal - retained from WWII or Korea) gun - phoned the police to: "Please come & take it away"
Full criminal trial, sentence of several years expected .. huge public protest - judge deferred sentence.
Even then, rather than acquitting or releasing, she was given 200 hrs communioty service.
I mean, it's an encouragement to keep or hide the weapon, isn't it?

Stupid doesn't even begin to describe it.
What do you do if someone dumps a gun or kiddie-porn on to you - there must be some legal way out, surely?


Even that doesn't work - it's on your property - it is therefore "in your poasession"
Yes, it really is that stupid.
And what do you do if a malicious person dumps kiddie-porn on th your computer?


Does a similar clause apply in England, though?


25-year secrecy rule files released.
Something for or from the Laundry?
I wonder.

Very interesting.
Confirms my opinion that, unlike Germany, we were never de-Nazified after WWII.


even Iran.
Iran is in many ways a far saner country than Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. They have an industrial base with decent engineers and scientists, women can go to university without getting acid thrown in their face on the way to school, there is music, parties e.t.c. behind closed doors and in the desert. The Iranian religious police is more about implementing the standard STASI security apparatus than it is aboutreligion.

There is also a lot to not like about Iran, but sadly, "The west" dislike Iran mostly because western policies towards the muslim world is more or less dictated to us via ARAMCO:

"Make any deals with those Persian heretics and Oil might become more expensive".

Oh - and while you lot are on this holy crusade, sorry ... War on Terrorism thing or whatever you call it, could you also do us a small favour and whack some of the apostates (Irak, Syria, Libya) while you are at it?

You have to pay for the bombs yourself, of course. You got a deal on the oil didn't you?"

That about sums it up, I think.


Of course, we might argue the extent to which Germany was denazified...


How about my usual choice of plaid checks? I suspect it's not quite as bad as a real Paisley pattern (and I'm from just down the road from Paisley so I do know what you should mean) but way worse than plain self-colour.


#42 - #45 inc - Surely the issue is not the age at which it is legal to be a principal in a marriage ceremony, but the age at which it is legal for that marriage to be consumated?


Sooner or later someone'll invent some malware that does just this, and target it against UK politicians.

Hull University apparently used to do this, until the student population subscribed the senior staff there onto a quite bewildering array of explicit email groups, then pointed out that as said staff were "in possession of obscene material" then they HAD to be suspended pending an investigation.

The policy got dropped rapidly.


Being a lawyer by trade I'm not exactly an IT expert (although, unlike most lawyers, I know sacrificing myrrh and frankincense does not appease the machine spirits) I don't know how feasible this might be, but it strikes me that people who dislike being snooped on could massively troll the NSA's webcam spying.

How? Simple. Create a programme that automatically sets up video connections between users (without actually displaying them), sending, oh, I don't know, the best (i.e. worst) of the world's shock sites. That ought to increase personnel turnover a bit.


Take your point!
Generally, quite well, but one or two ( H v Karajan comes especially to mind) not so much "got away" but were allowed to carry on.


I am not competent to judge the different sources. I only know that they exist, and are not mentioned by Wikipedia.

As for the article from the Saudi Gazette, that was in October 2008, and I would like to see more up-to-date information.

And there has been one recent Saudi case involving an 8-year-old.

I get a feeling that you are being deliberately provocative here, and alarmingly casual about the claims you make.


Now I'm imagining a strict theocracy working religious proscriptions into a security geas. If you're working undercover in Iran and want to make sure the other guy isn't secret police, do you share a BLT? Like having the buyer smoke a joint to prove he's not a narc before you sell? He doesn't drop dead, he's clean? Plant illegal porn in the dead drop and any enemy agent who sees it is automatically sent to HR and discharged, rules must be followed.

I'm imagining a Voldemort geas to prevent leaking of important info that cannot be discussed and how it can end up making containment difficult because you aren't allowed to think about it, have to think obliquely.
"We have to contain the thing."
"What thing?"
"The you know what."
"No, what."
"The [BLORP]."
"What were we talking about?"
"I don't know but I've got an emergency alert about the thing getting out."

Maybe someone screwed up crafting the geas, like a sysadmin removing admin privileges from admin so no one technically can control a system. Or an agent who screwed up something awful gets everyone to forget about the screwup while the consequences still remain. Ken Philby erasing knowledge that any secrets were nicked even as the Soviets exploit them.


As a lawyer, you might care to look up what consttitutes "making" an obscene image (in the UK at least).


Yet another reason for observant right-wing extremist Muslims to wear a veil while on the computer.

Along with the gangrene, I'd suggest that there are a lot of flesh-colored parasites and serious fungal infections (and no, I'm not providing any links) that would make analysts look away from the screen. Tumors would work too.

On the positive side for GCHQ and others, they now have a good way of tracking which of their employees isn't paying attention to their security rules: check the porn stashes on their cell phones, and if they happen to contain images from phone calls they were studying, they get shunted into a full security audit by counterespionage to see how far they are leaking information from work. Sort of a reverse honey-trap, if you will. Perhaps they'll call this program ARGENTINE ANT.


An American source biased against Islam? Surely not!

I'll be the first to admit that my knowledge of Islamic law is mostly hearsay. As for being biased against Islam, I may well be guilty. It depends on how high you set the bar between "bias against Islam" and "rational dislike of many real-world Islamic practices".

63: strikes me that people who dislike being snooped on could massively troll the NSA's webcam spying... Create a programme that automatically sets up video connections between users (without actually displaying them), sending, oh, I don't know, the best (i.e. worst) of the world's shock sites...

It makes me wonder if the NSA or GCHQ has already needed to develop a goatse detector! They could hardly admit it if they did, since people would then simply hide messages in butt shots[1]. Random images of no specific subject seem the best way to avoid any automatic filtering.

I recently noticed that I seem to have an unreasonable number of cat pictures on my hard drive. An computer would have no trouble making up a sequence that's 95% cute and 5% vomit shots, car accident documentation, and camel porn.

[1] Over the years Al Qaida and similar groups have lost many hard drives and vast amounts of email to Western governments, and people have actually had to go through their porn stashes looking for steganographically hidden messages. Quoth one poor soul, "We've got terabytes of this stuff."


From the "bias against Islam" folder, here's a blog essay by a Lebanese woman (of Shi'ite upbringing, now an atheist living in the west) on what it's like to grow up in Hezbollah's culture, and a direct comparison with her partner's Christian dominionist neighbours. Who seem to have the exact same cognitive biases.

I'd be less worried about the whole NSA/GCHQ snooping business if I thought they were alert for insidious religious extremism of every stripe. And if there was more of an actual threat. (As it is, the west loses more lives to auto accidents every month than it has lost to terrorism this century.)

Islam, let us remember, is a religion. Like all religions it covers a wide range of beliefs and practices -- some of which claim to be normative, but such claims are open to dispute (is the Pope representative of all Christians? Or Jimmy Swaggart?). And it covers a huge range of individuals, who range from the fanatically intolerant to the enlightened and inclusive, from fundamentalists to unitarians. And I'd rather judge individuals by their actions, than entire groups by the rhetoric of non-representative members.


Just a note. They will also automatically compare any faces seen with existing facial databases and flag "wanted" or "of interest". Since the IP can be tracked back, whether they inform the police would probably depend on the seriousness of the crime.


If "flesh tones" are that important as a screening device, I guess that GCHQ doesn't think there are any terrorists of note based in Abbottabad (or at least not any longer!). Or Jakarta. Or, more to the point, Brixton (when I was Over There, a few food outlets were clearly violating the Geneva and Hague Conventions regarding chemical and biological warfare, and I doubt things have improved).

All of which leads to precaffeinated musings on bodypaint fetishists at GCHQ...


I was just wondering just what depth of melanin in the skin qualifies as "flesh"-tones.


Facial tattoos seem to be increasing in popularity at least on TV. Make-up including wigs, plastic inserts, consciously changing how you shape your mouth when speaking, etc. can do wonders too in changing facial 'architecture'. How are the above being taken into account by facial recog programs?


See also CVDazzle, make-up designed to defeat face recognition. (Is now the right time to mention William Gibson's novel "Zero History"?)

I was just wondering just what depth of melanin in the skin qualifies as "flesh"-tones.

Interesting question. Most links in Google to "identify flesh tones" lead to cosmetic advice, and "identify flesh tones in photograph" leads to Photoshop advice ( which in this context may be useful ). As a sometime analyst/programmer ( in my day the a/p label was important) if I had to develop something to identify porn, I'd look to license and adapt something like the Red Bee Media's Piero. ( for those interested ).


One way to throw things off would be to use a negative image. The colours go to blue/cyan and the dark tones go to light. Since the facial recognition methods often rely on such things as the eyes and nose, as well as skin tones, this hits things both ways.

Of course, it's relatively easy to apply a negative-image filter before you check.


I saw an article about webcam face capture yesterday, but [irritated]I cannot find it today[/irritated].

The webcam in question was supposed to auto-track and auto-focus on people's faces. A video showed a (white) woman moving around in the webcam's field of vision. The webcam faithfully followed and focused on her face. Then a black man tried the same thing-- and it ignored him!

This was in a display in a big box store, where the lighting was (presumably) OK. The manufacturer claimed that there wasn't enough contrast in the picture to do the focusing. Or something.

Perhaps the takeaway from this is that a webcam company needs to hire black testing personnel?


Another idea to overwhelm them could be a wonderful, massively distributed Rick Rolling campaign.

'Never gonna give you up...'

Another idea to overwhelm them

The trad way to solve protest is to make a few high-profile examples. Fancy loosing everything, for a point of principle?

Honestly speaking, I don't, unless it's a matter of survival. So yes, I'm cowed, but remember the Heinlein lesson from the notebooks about frightening a little man...

The webcam in question was supposed to auto-track and auto-focus on people's faces. A video showed a (white) woman moving around in the webcam's field of vision. The webcam faithfully followed and focused on her face. Then a black man tried the same thing-- and it ignored him!

The video you wanted is called HP computers are racist. The allegation about Apple computers is even funnier. The actual situation is face tracking needs more foreground lighting if your face is dark.


speaking of which, I'd like to quote Richard Morgan in the person of Quellcrist Falconer in
iThings I Should Have Learned by Now, Volume II

“The personal, as everyone’s so fucking fond of saying, is political. So if some idiot politician, some power player, tries to execute policies that harm you or those you care about, take it personally. Get angry. The Machinery of Justice will not serve you here – it is slow and cold, and it is theirs, hardware and soft-. Only the little people suffer at the hands of Justice; the creatures of power slide from under it with a wink and a grin. If you want justice, you will have to claw it from them. Make it personal. Do as much damage as you can. Get your message across. That way, you stand a better chance of being taken seriously next time. Of being considered dangerous. And make no mistake about this: being taken seriously, being considered dangerous marks the difference - the only difference in their eyes - between players and little people. Players they will make deals with. Little people they liquidate. And time and again they cream your liquidation, your displacement, your torture and brutal execution with the ultimate insult that it’s just business, it’s politics, it’s the way of the world, it’s a tough life and that it’s nothing personal. Well, fuck them. Make it personal.”

Fuck, I wish he'd write the book...!


" "We would never employ you as a teacher, you're marked down for paedophilia."
"But she was older than me!"
"Nevertheless." "

Indeed!? You wouldn't happen to be an EVIL Vicious Child molesting.... " .. Paediatrician ..." would you?

No? Well of course you would say that wouldn't you?

Note... " .. The Sunday tabloid wants the government to introduce a law allowing people access to information on the identities and addresses of paedophiles in their areas. "

And also note that that news report was dated ... " Wednesday 30 August 2000 00.42 BST "

I suggest that anyone who is interested in this topic types " SEX SELLS " into any search engine and to bear in mind that " SELLS " works for value received/personal profit..Say promotion prospects in any variation of Dept Of Homeland Security/GCHQ.

Sex is ever so valuable to any Intelligence Organisation...type " sex east german intelligence” into any search engine and see what you get ...if you dare.

I particularly like...

" Stasi agents learned how to don (supposedly) inconspicuous disguises. "

The ever so secret agent in the photo on the right towards the top of that article looks suspiciously like our host were he to be depicted wearing a particularly convincing disguise when he was but a lad! Note that moustache

Where were you way back then Charlie?

Now where did I put my copy of 'Photoshop '?

Even in the context of recent history this sort of thing has been underway for some time now and it has intensified since the clamp down on government spending post the latest Great Recession.

Oh, Security Orgasms - er that is to say Security organisations - have been exempted from the latest cuts in State Spending here in the UK, as well as Here There and Everywhere else abroad, but, well, having LOTS of Info on SEX never did J. Edger Hover any harm did it? You can NEVER have too large a Budget.

Protecting your budget by all means possible is the first law of Organisation Management. It was ever so.

Type ..

" SEX never did J. Edger Hover any harm " into that search engine .. but, Wait ..why haven't these " Search Engine " thingies not been BANNED?


P.S. ..Theres a bloody AMAZING number of photos of Our Gracious Host on Google Images . but I havent dared look up .."Charles Stross covert meetings in the nude ", on Google Images let alone on Yahoo! video.

Perhaps on DUCK DUCK GO after I've recovered from this evenings sesssion of Spiritual Enlightenment through Beer? We shall see.


Don't know, but sharing a certain, err, sexual imprinting

towards women of Mediterranean appearance and good skin

somewhat endemic to my family I can see quite some applications for tailored algorithmy in the, err, erotic media trade...


Actually, there is an exemption for married or cohabiting couples:

Secondly, (in response to another comment), there is a defence if you did not request or expect to find yourself in possession of the material and did not retain it for "an unreasonable time".
See "Section 160 Criminal Justice Act 1988".


Err, Antonia, what I wanted to say with my quip about Aisha was that if I talked about Ancient Greeks and Romans, including Socrates, Plato and even the "nice" Roman emperors shagging underage girls and boys, early modern enlightenment thinkers beating their women and Victorian gentlemen getting rimjobs from underage prostitutes, quite a few of the "culture warriors" would label me a feminazi

or maybe accuse me of ruminating Christian religious propaganda if the accused is one of the heathen Greeks if I'm dissapproving or of disseminating homosexual propaganda if i'm somewhat approving.

If the persons in question are Mohammed and Aisha, the stance is mysteriously changed, and standards are rigorously enforced, even with the same "culture warrior" guys and gals. Even if, as you noted, the sources in question are somewhat divided and subject to serious cases of value dissonance; On the one hand, it's quite common in many cultures to stress the youth of the bride as a sign of virginity, sometimes to unrealistic age points, so the original sources for Aisha's young age might be somewhat suspect, on the other, quite a few later Islamic cultures had similar issues with young age marriage as we today and thus might have made Aisha older than she was.

Also note that I once or twice met this "Mohammed a pedophile" attitude in people close to the neopagan/"medieval fair" movements, where VERY similar ages of marriage were not that unheard of at the times in question. Of course, there would be no public display of the bloody linen in Medieval Europe. At least not exclusively. As we all know, you can fake that, so usually there was some relatives present in the bedroom to witness the marriage was consumated:

Which IMHO marks quite a lot of the discussion about Mohammed and Aisha as an exercise in hypocrisy. And yes, it's quite common to leave out quite a lot of the data in question. For a more general view on similar issues, also in relation to European history, compare


While Islamic law often uses the example of Mohammed, most Muslim countries seem not to interpret this in a way that marrying of 9 year olds is the way to go, just as most Jews and Christians today would not force a widow into a levirate marriage

though the alternative of halizah surely sounds, err, entertaining:

But as already noted, there might be some exemptions. Problem is, we have 3 somewhat conflicting legal entities here:

1.) the legal age of marriage, or the age where you can marry, where the exact age might be subject to some special circumstance rules(e.g. guardian approving etc.).
2.) the legal age of consent, or the age at which you can have consenting sex where the exact age might be subject to some special circumstance rules(e.g. usual age does not apply if both partners are not that far removed in age etc.).
3.) the legal status of extramarital sex vs. marital one.

The actual relation between these concepts is quite a complex one, e.g. marriage might be allowed as early as 8 years, but sex before menarche could be forbidden both inside and outside of marriage, marriage might be allowed somewhat early and sex might be allowed in those young couples, but age of consent for unmarried couples might have a higher age of consent etc. Please note we're only talking about legal age of marriage here, not the age you can have sex with someone. A list of the different legal ages with some sources is given here:

Again, most Muslim countries have a legal age of marriage somewhat around 18, of course this is not necessarily an indication that the law in question is always enforced(tribal Pakistan comes to mind). But as we can see, there are some exceptions with no minimum age, namely Brunei, Saudi-Arabia, Yemen and maybe Sudan[1]. Which is, come to think about it, hardly "most of the Muslim world", in fact, the world's largest Muslim country, Indonesia, is noted as having a marriable age of 16. which is somewhat lower than the European standard of 18, but not that much.

So, well, for falsifying the original

"the legal age of marriage in Muslim countries is often 9 (with some schools of thought going as young as 6)"

we could stop here and saying, no, actually not, the legal age of marriage is quite often 18, though sometimes as low as 15, for comparisan, most Western countries say minimum age is 18, and Vatican canon law says minimum age of marriage is 14 for girls and 16 for boys, and since this is about the ages of me and my first girlfriend at the time(add 2 years for the male, and, err, before making jokes, she acted somewhat mature for her age, at least intellectually, as for emotional, err, I guess I'm not the only one here who thinks the two only tangetially related[2]), I don't think that one necessarily that bad. Err. Back to topic.

Thing is, though quite a few people talk about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, the politics of those people often show little relation to a realistic evaluation of Islamic fundamentalism in the situation, but quite a lot to their own interests. So it might be interesting to view the situation in the offending countries in relation to Western politics. And since of the three or four countries in question Saudi-Arabia is the one most closely connected to the Western World, I decided to focus on it.

Now Saudi-Arabia is quite a special place,

and using them as exemplary of other muslims is like using the White seperatist/supremacist Elohim City guys of McVeigh fame,_Oklahoma

as a model for, say, the Roman Catholic Church, where the church hierarchy is quite color blind (still no black pope, though), but of course, sadly, neither sex nor gender blind. So they are not that good a model for other Muslim countries, but as already said, we were not looking at Muslim countries in general, we were looking at a country quite close to the Western World, being second only to Canada as an oil source to the US:

So taking a closer look is permitted since as already said, we're already looking at a special case.

Now the "funny" thing is, even if our "culture warriors" search for Islamismic conquerors in all of the places, the same people who even think the Turkish ministry of religion is an Islamist group hellbent on dominating the West

usually have no problems with selling tanks to Saudi-Arabia or arming up Pakistan. Talk about hypocrisy.

Problem is, the values provided only said there was no legal age minimum in Saudi Arabia, so I looked for sources providing cover for this problem really existing there, it might be possible there was simply no data on Saudi-Arabia, and marriages below 18 in fact being prohibited. Of course, there was also the possibility of some of the countries listed as having a minimum age of 18 in fact allowing younger marriages, or the laws not being enforced that much, but that was more of the job the other side had to do. And yes, there were some quite recent articles in a Saudi newspaper talking exactly about the problem of very young marriages. So, well, while I had somewhat falsified the idea marriage at 9 was widespread in Muslim countries, I had also corraborated the claim one of the "best friends" of the Western World in the region was an outlier, at a time when e.g. Germany was selling tanks to the guys.

Maybe I want to provoke someone, but I guess it's not the way you think I do... ;)

Coming back to Saudi-Arabia, though the issue was still unresolved in 2012

There was a new law in early 2013, though response was somewhat, err, mixed:

Minimum age was set at 16, but there were some ways around, namely examination by some physician and since, as noted in the footnote about Sudan, there are cases of menarche as young as 8 months, and people could be deemed somewhat mature before puberty(there are those of us who might say quite a few people act MORE mature before puberty and only somewhat recover afterwards *g*) these are quite some loopholes. There is indication a new law is about to be made, raising the age to 18 and somewhat curtailing the power of the guardian, though, this is from December 2013:

searching for "marriage age minimum" I found no later articles about Saudi law on the Saudi Gazette web site. Hope you are somewhat content.

As already said, I find this whole discussion has some paradoxical details, especially given some of the discussions going on in the thread about people registered as pedophiles because they shagged people 2 years their senior. Though I guess reality is not doing me the favor of a 16 year old girl in Saudi-Arabia appealing the new law because she can't marry her 18 year old boyfriend , and if, there might be some not so funny subtext when you look who's paying the lawyer's bill (daddy, I guess).

So, to sum things somewhat up, though we might argue about human rights in Muslim countries, saying women are routinely married of at the age of 9 in them is wrong, in fact, minimum marriage age is not that far removed from Europe and the US, somewhat lower, but usually not lower than 15. Of course, there are always some exceptions, but there are also in the Western world, if we look at the US, though in general the minimum age was 18, it was 21 in Missisippi, while both New Hampshire and Texas provided some excemption for marriage at 14. And even in 2008, 5 years after the Iraq invasion of the US, partly because Iraq (minimum marriageable age: 18, 15 in certain circumstances) was accused of supporting Islamist terrorism, one of these exceptions was Saudi-Arabia. This changed somewhat lately, with the early 2013 introduction of a law establishing a minimum age of 16, and there is talk about new legislation raising this to 18. So the situation is somewhat improving.

(sarcasm)If we're lucky, maybe in a few years Saudi authorities will accept foreign driver licenses, thus allowing some women to drive

and if we're really lucky, in about ten years they will start issuing local driver licenses to women, to be used when a male relative permits driving. In the mean time, Western right-wing "liberal/libertarian/liberty" parties like the SVP, FPÖ, FN and like have prevented legislation intended at cutting oil consumption, citing "defending personal liberty" as a reason, instituted some preferable deals about weapons and oils with Saudi Arabia, shut up borders to fugitives from Arab countries, prevented equal opportunity laws at the workplace for women and minorities and infringed on freedom of religion by curtailing building mosques in the interest of, inter alias, "fighting Muslim suppression of women".

As already said, I guess I'm trying to provoke someone, but it's not as you guess...

[1] Sources say marriage is possible in Sudan after puberty, which seems somewhat sensible, but since the world's youngest mother was a 5 year 7 month old girl from Peru and the child was not that preterm, this means theoretically 4 year old could be married of in Sudan. Actually, there are reports of the girl in question having her menarche at eight month old, so one might argue Sudanese law permits marrying of eight month olds.

[2] We might argue young marriage is not a good idea especially in the RCC because there is no divorce, but than, the relation not working out in our case was not a story of dislike, err, let's just say I guess imposter syndrome united and divided us. Well, thinking back to the days, yes. Met her while reading "Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" in the library, though she liked horror, she didn't know Lovecraft. Memory gives me shivers, nostalgic, yes. Guess I'm growing old...


Will do. I'm not a UK citizen nor resident, and it never occurred to me that sort of thing might be illegal (it wouldn't be illegal over here).


You may have noticed that a lot of UK legislation is very widely drawn but that (we are told) it will be applied reasonably.


In the UK we have slightly less of a problem of inappropriate application of those over-broad laws than in the USA. A major contributory difference is that judges and prosecutors are not elected: so their priority is not proving they're "tough on crime" to the electorate, but the pursuit of justice. This is a difference in emphasis that really becomes obvious when you look at the prevalence of plea bargains and throwing-the-book-at-the-accused in the American system.

This is not to say that over-broad laws are a good thing; but giving the police, prosecutors, and courts a bit more flexibility when it comes to determining that it is not in the public interest to prosecute a minor/borderline infraction of them takes some of the sting out.


It's also worth noting that although it's easy to point and say "OMG they're different to us" the UK has recently had calls to have the age of consent changed from 16 to 14 for people who are less than 2 years apart.

It's not some random paedophile charter, it's a call from a heavyweight academic, but it was thrown out by parliament as 'immoral' but it got a fair amount of coverage over here from the hysterical (especially those who ignored the 2 year age gap part) to the reasoned discussion.

I honestly don't know where I stand on it, I can see good arguments on both sides.

And in my adult life the age of consent for gay sex has gone from 21 to 18 to 16 in the UK. In my life it's gone from illegal to 16.

A lot of these 'magic numbers' can change quite quickly.


Don't take this the wrong way Charlie but your opinion of police and prosecutors in the UK comes across as the touching middle-class naivete of someone who has never been on the receiving end of the criminal justice system.

I've just got out of Saughton after doing a seven day lie-down after the PF had me up on petition. The charge on the original petition was a nonsense, and the charge on the current petition makes it clear the police and PF have been on a fishing expedition looking for things to do me for. As the sheriff who granted bail observed when reviewing the charge part of what they've charged me with isn't even an offence under the relevant legislation.

I should get a not guilty at trial, but my lawyer has told me it's an absolutely unique case and the PF blatantly doesn't know what to do with me but that they're determined to do me.

Maybe publicly embarrassing the police, PF and several major corporations including a well-known Edinburgh financial institution over a protracted period of time in order to expose rampant criminality, malfeasance and incompetence wasn't the brightest course of action but it's certainly been fun...


After doing some frantic searching, combined with a "but it's subject to some statute of limitations anyway, isn't it, and anyway, I first thought she was older and tried to keep it on a just-friend-basis when I realised her age, and actuall, it was her who started it, I was somewhat, err, of course pleasantly surprised, err", it's somewhat different in Germany.

- sexual contact (let's not care about the definition) with persons below 14 is illegal, this applies to all persons above the age of 14, which, of course, might get you into some problems if one partner is, say, 14 and the other one is 15. That one is called "sexueller Mißbrauch von Kindern", or "sexual abuse of children".

- Between 14 and 16, it is only illegal if the partner is above 21 and exploited the partner's "lack of ability for sexual self-determination". Usually, except in gross cases this is only done after an explicit motion. That one is called "sexueller Mißbrauch von Jugendlichen", or "sexual abuse of adolescents".

- Generally, it's illegal between 14 and 18 if the person is subject to some coercion or is paid for the sexual contact. Again, this is "sexual abuse of adolescents".

- there are special rules for persons below 18 in situations of care, education or employment. That one is called "sexueller Mißbrauch von Schutzbefohlenen", or "sexual exploitation of someone subject to your care".

I'm no lawyer, so there might be some errors there; proceed at your own risk, I know of one girl thought below 18 in her mid-twenties, and I guess it could also happen the other way around. Also note that while it's somewhat more differentiated than UK law, there might be some strange cases, e.g. I remember one girl tutoring a boy of the same age for biology, of all things, and there was some sexual innuendo. If both were, say, 17 that might have lead to strange proceedings.

Minimum marriage age is 18, 16 if you apply to a court and win. So I might have still gotten into problems if, err, "something" happened and we decided marriage was, err, "the right thing to do". While I guess we don't have to argue about the legal standing of abortion, could we maybe agree that decision might make for some problems in some girls, not necessarily just of the RCC but also for example of the vivisection free lipstick and lacto-vegetarian persuasion?

As it were, the only one objecting was the projectionist of the adult cinema we were kissing in front of...


I loved this, but... It's heard to get the image of a bad man, in a scarf that covers his face, angrily ham shanking for his god.


"A major contributory difference is that judges and prosecutors are not elected: so their priority is not proving they're "tough on crime" to the electorate, but the pursuit of justice."

Now if we could convince the electorate that "justice" isn't synonymous with "punishment of the guilty"...


BTW, please excuse if most of the cases seem somewhat heteronormative, but this was somewhat in the first stages of the big coming-out, and the one homoerotic relationships I knew was about same age.


Generally, it's illegal between 14 and 18 if the person is subject to some coercion

I would have thought that sex with someone who has been subjected to coercion is illegal regardless of their age. Isn't that, um, rape?

(This might be a purely idiolectal thing, but I've always thought 'consent' carried slightly worrying undertones in this context- the sentence 'he/she consented, though he/she had been subject to some coercion' doesn't sound oxymoronic in quite the same way that 'he/she freely agreed, though he/she had been subject to some coercion).


First of, as already said I'm no lawyer, so there might be some mistakes in this. That being said, as already said these laws concern "sexual contact", in the text these are called "sexuelle Handlungen", e.g. "sexual deed". Definition is somewhat tricky, though they have to be somewhat "serious". wiki says kissing, hugging and stroking are usually not "sexuelle Handlungen", showing the person of your desires your naughty bits most likely is.

As for coercion, there are different grades of that one, and also different kinds of it, see e.g. social coercion; we might think about a knife to the carotids, but what about making allusions you're going to end the relationship if you don't get what you want, or of being labelled "frigid" in ones peer group? Actually, the qualifier is not so much on the behaviour of the offender, e.g. using coercion, but of the situation of the young person, e.g. being in a "Zwangslage"; looking for a definition, I found "situation of serious personal or economic difficulties", with the offender realizing this situation. As already said, I'm no lawyer, and I don't know how this is actually handled, but I guess inviting a 17 year old homeless person, giving him/her shelter and later on doing some heavy petting with him/her is a good contender; this might sound somewhat sleazy, but if you're not thinking about sexual predators on the prowl but more about helping out a friend in time of need and things running somewhat, err, out of control, you can see there is some grey area. BTW giving shelter might also count as payment, so we have some overlap, as with quite a few of the offenses in question. Another comment uses drug addicts besides runaways and homeless as examples, guess psychical problems would count in some cases, too. Now if you excuse me, I need a tea to get these ideas about what to avoid at the next Goth or Goa party out of my head...

One of the next steps would be "sexuelle Nötigung", which would be more plain "sexual coercion", which is defined as using either "Gewalt" (violence or force), "Drohung mit gegenwärtiger Gefahr für Leib oder Leben" (threat of immediate danger for body or life) or "Ausnutzung einer Lage, in der das Opfer der Einwirkung des Täters schutzlos ausgeliefert ist" (Exploitation of a situation the victim is defenseless against the intrusion of the offender.

"Vergewaltigung", literally "violation", usually translated as "rape" is a special form of "sexuelle Nötigung". As in UK law, it's somewhat connected to penetration, or "beischlaf" (literally "sleep with"), but includes also cases of "Erniedrigung", or "denigration".

Hope that helps, as already said, I'm no lawyer.

BTW, I really like what google et al. are going to make out of my searches for this answer.


Never mind all the humour people, the stings in the tail

"However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets..."

I really can't think of a better way to generate a bucketload of false positives. Human beings are notoriously bad at this sort of discrimination, y'know the 'narrative fallacy'...

Don't GCHQ have any psychologists or cognitive engineering talent on their staff?


If your statement is correct, then it's obvious what's happened.
Someone ( OR a group/"corporation"(?)) called in a favour or two & deliberately got you banged-up.
I would suggest carrying on as you started, with as much publicity as possible, as this sort of thing goes down very bady once (& if) it is exposed.
The corrupt hounding of Steve Lawrence's friend, Duwayne Brooks, comes immediately to mind.

Oh, important PS - so that some of us may be able to help.
You referred to: to expose rampant criminality, malfeasance and incompetence - sounds like fun - more juicy deatils please?


You aren't by any chance "English" & the people/organisations you've exposed are dreadfully "Scottish" by any err, unhappy co-incidence?
( Or could be construed as such )


It strikes me, actually, your story supports Charlie's comment, not confounds it. Yes, there are people within the system that can and do abuse it and make things uncomfortable for people that embarrass them or their mates but fundamentally the system will say "Not Guilty" and let you go. You haven't disappeared, been shot and the like.

Assuming your case is thrown out, it would seem you have a good case for claiming against the police for wrongful arrest and the like.

He never claimed the system was perfect, simply that it was better than in the US. Our courts regularly do things that annoy our politicians, tell them that they're being stupid and the like, albeit in rather more judicial language.

I, for one, would far rather have them independent rather than having to stand for election and subject to tabloid electioneering. I'm not saying they shouldn't be subject to public scrutiny and removed if there's evidence of corruption, wrong-doing and the like, but I think I'd prefer a judge who doesn't have to stand on "I'm tough on crime" every few years and can sit there and make a decision based on the evidence, the precedents, the current sentencing guidelines and the like.

When did we last actually have a political debate about our crime and punishment system? All the parties are "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" in some other soundbite. Do you really believe judges were elected they could be anything else than as tough as possible? If the CPS was staffed by elected officials or those working to become elected officials where their conviction rate was all important, how would it distort the pattern of cases going to court I wonder? In England and Wales at least the test is meant to be "a reasonable chance of successful prosecution" although there's an earlier test about "in the public interest" as well. I really don't know what changes that would cause.

And although it's a debate for another place, evidence (and it exists) that other approaches than prison are cheaper and have lower recidivism rates are ignored because they're not seen as tough.


Reading these comments makes me glad I don't live in Britain. The total disregard for natural justice in the campaign against pornography reminds me of earlier witch burning eras... put them all to the torch and let God sort out the innocent.

The very slight risks of being shot by a crazy gun owner pale into insignificance when compared with the social flagellation and life-long shunning of both minors and adult suspects in this evil campaign. I guess you have all forgotten that the Nazis preached the same policy of using all means to maintain moral purity.


True, but I think the analogy fits ;)


Your sense of proportion has gone very much awry if you think the current child porn witch hunt (which, I will note, the US shares -- such material has been ruled to fall outside the protection of the first amendment) is remotely equivalent to thousands of gun deaths per year.


You are right, it is an exaggeration and I apologise. It just annoys me that if I accidentally look at child porn or even mainstream porn in the UK, it seems I have committed a crime. Whereas you have to actually shoot someone before that is a crime, just fantasizing about it or seeing a photo of a killing doesn't count.


Not so. You can pretty much look at as much mainstream porn as you like in the UK. Probably not at work in most circumstances - but then you're meant to be working when you're at work.

Child porn laws are particularly draconian here but they're actually pretty harsh everywhere.

There are rumoured to be stupid and unenforceable laws being introduced so that families can choose to have better filters for porn at home in the UK as well. I don't mind them in principle - letting parents control what their children can see is a good thing IMO, as long as the parents actually do it - but they're not actually going to stop adults seeing porn if they want.


While this is a very entertaining spin on the story, either some of your legal deductions aren't quite right, or this isn't possible:


The Register is, of course well known for its journalistic excellence?

But actually I'm pretty sure the law would consider the materials to be in the hands of the police investigating the crime, and the people from GCHQ would be technical experts removing the encryption on the data. Chain of custody and all that. Some copper might have gone to GCHQ carrying the hard drive, or more likely, someone from GCHQ might have carried their laptop to the right place and hooked it up but the GCHQ person hacks through the password, shows they can get into the file structure and shows the cop how to do it too, or copies it onto a non-encrypted disc also part of the evidence chain. All under the orders of the investigating officer. Perhaps "some forensics specialists" in Charlie's original piece covers this too?


The Register is, of course well known for its journalistic excellence?

I rate it somewhere on a par with the Daily Mail and the like.

Actually, that's unfair. The Register is capable of printing the truth, it just frequently doesn't bother. I'm not entirely sure the Mail's editorial staff wouldn't just dissolve into a seething puddle of slime if they let any facts in with no careful admixture of half-truths, non-sequiturs and outright lies.


You're making the logical assumption that senior police, Crown Prosecutors, and Courts haven't had their mandatory pre-frontal lobotomy that is required when you reach senior rank. The same one that is required when you it Major in the US Army and presumably the British Army at the equivalent rank. The one that ensures that good judgement goes out the window and is replaced by what keeps me from looking like an idiot for the promotion boards?. That you haven't heard about a case means that nobody of sufficient political or public noticeably has been hit by it yet.

There's a bizarreness to this, but at some point, somebody is going to use this data and we'll be getting some odd and very precisely targeted porn out of this...


My fear with overly-broad laws is always that prosecutorial discretion relies on being in good graces with the Powers That Be. People who make trouble, or that just don't belong where they are, tend to end up on the wrong end of prosecutions based on those laws.

That's my US-centric view, anyway. It's possible that it's different in Britain, but I don't think human nature varies that much from country to country. To assume that prosecuting authorities will always behave with discretion and common sense seems awfully naive.

Somewhat relevant story: A friend from Michigan was once pulled over while driving through rural Texas. After going over the car for evidence of malfeasance and being disappointed, the cop made it clear that they were going to get a ticket for SOME offense, he just hadn't decided what, yet. They eventually "agreed" that the ticket would be for a broken tail light, and then he was allowed to drive on.

This kind of harassment is not that uncommon for people with out-of-state plates, in rural parts of the country. The assumption in those conservative areas is that if you're Not From Around There, you must be up to no good. My wife and I were once pulled over in Montana for speeding, and required to pay the fine in cash, on the spot, before we were allowed to continue.


Exactermuckerly so!

In fact, you are not safe, even if you are one of the "Right People" ( And, in this case "right" has two meanings, just for fun) as the arrest of Patrick Rock shows
Now this guy is an aide to No 10, & he was publicly known to be working on the problem of child abuse imagery on the web.
But he's been arrested - though not charged, as yet, & he may never be - it may turn out to be "no case to answer".
But, the condemneation is in the public outing & process, isn't it?

Personal view: I SUSPECT that, although he was legitimately working on this horrible stuff, he probably hadn't necessarily ticked every last possible box, to allow him to work with such imagery & someone has decide to "obey the law".
Which just shows how dangerous this sort of Strict Liabilty legislation can be.

Oops - Second thoughts - just in time, before hitting "send".
This guy, (PR) has been around since the days of the madwoman. It's also distinctly possible that he treated the cops with whom he must have been working as , ahem, "plebs", and therefore that this is an internal stabbing by the police, to get their own back.

NOTE: Charlie posted this: 27/02/2014
P. R. was detained 13/02/2014, but the information was only released today, 4/03/2014
This shows OGH's presicence to a scary degree - I hope some other of his nastier visions don't turn out to be as accurate [ "Dark State" for a start ]

Oh dearie, dearie me, what a tangled web.



What legitimate reason would an aide working in a policy unit have to retain material like this in his possession? I mean, yes, he might reasonably have been exposed to this stuff in briefings so that he knows what sort of material needs to be addressed, he might even need regular updates if the nature of the material is changing, but actually retaining the stuff???

Not one little bit convinced...


Yes / No / Maybe
I can think of all sorts of "reasons" for having it, including the "guilty" one, & the others I've mentioned above.
Simply forgot to delete those particular files?
The current working directory for the ongoing investigation?
"Legit" stuff (as in work) mis-filed?
Whatever happens, it (again) shows the problem of "Strict Liability" - which was the point I was trying to make, of course.


Et seq - And, of course, Scamoron's response of "it was not appropriate for us to comment until the case was reported" or "We'll say nothing and hope that none of the press actually notice".


And agian
This guy has been around sibce the madwoman was in charge & some of that crew were (& a few still are) distinctly unsavoury types.
Aitken, Sherman ("Giftzwerg") & "slimy Cecil Prick" (as Private eye called him) spring immediately to mind.
But that's guilt-by-association, exactly the same as the daily Nazi is trying to smear one H Harman with.


It's better than that - there are specific exemptions for members of the security services in the UK laws against porn, including child porn. See for example, Section 1B of the Protection of Children Act 1978 (c. 37):

(1)In proceedings for an offence under section 1(1)(a) of making an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child, the defendant is not guilty of the offence if he proves that—
(c)at the time of the offence charged he was a member of GCHQ, and it was necessary for him to make the photograph or pseudo-photograph for the exercise of any of the functions of GCHQ.

That one was introduced in 2003. Now we know why.



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on February 27, 2014 3:46 PM.

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