Politics needs more geeks.
March 10, 2010, 10:48 pm
Filed under: politics | Tags:

I’ve previously asserted that government should be assigning more of it’s ICT projects to smaller companies, and after reading the Digital Economy Bill and the various ammendments by Lords I’ve come to realise that politics needs more nerds.

It’s clear that the current batch of politicians and lords don’t understand technology both from the point of view of how it works, nor from the angle for how it has effected, changed and bettered society.

Chris Huhne’s call for police to be given the power to monitor sex offenders use of the internet is well intended, but the means by which the police are to acheive it expose the kind of lack of understanding that we see all to often.

Neither an IP address or even an email address are identity tokens, you cannot definitivly tie them back to an individual. In my house there are 2 computers, and one of those is shared so to imply that I have been browsing the CBBC website or reading email on Yahoo is completly impossible.

What if I were to access the sites form the local internet cafe? The free wifi you get in places like Starbucks (ah! the DEB will take care of that), what if I use the WIFI from the flat a couple of floors below because they havn’t secured it, or they use a service like FONera that offers free wifi?

Add on to that the fact that ISP don’t give out the same IP address to the same account each time, mix in a little anonymous proxy or two and services such as TOR it’s obvious that you can’t rely on an IP address being attached to an individual.

What about email addresses, everyone knows they’re an easy way to identify someone, right? Wrong! There are a multitude of service providers that will give you an email address, some even without having to sign up for an account, most of these are banned from being used as email addresses, but it’s not hard to imagine services that keep themselves off the radar.

None of that matters however because you can go and sign up for a Google Mail address right now and the recovery email feild is optional, you can have an email adress that will log you in in seconds, and that’s why you can’t rely on an email address as an identity token.

And this is why politics needs more geeks, so that politics as a whole will become more rounded and a better representation of the people who elect them and so the naive one in me would like to think they’d be consulted before statements like this are made or bills like the DEB are poposed or ammended.


2 Comments so far
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Agreed that internet technologies don’t offer much in the way of identity verification, but that’s not important. What’s important is that, on the whole, people believe they are identifiable and so will moderate their behaviour accordingly.

what if I use the WIFI from the flat a couple of floors below because they havn’t secured it

Using someone else’s property without their permission sounds a lot like theft, so is likely already illegal.

Comment by Paul Mitchell

You’re right Paul, it might do a little bit to discourage some people, but to anyone with any time on their hands it quickly becomes obvious that IP addresses and email addresses are easy to hide behind.

It’s Ok for the public to think their IP address or email can identify them, but it starts to get dangerous when the authorities think the same.

The example given in Mr Huhne’s statement was referring to paedophiles, who have already broken the law, so a bit of wifi leaching probably isn’t isn’t going to disturb their moral compass, and it’s equally tricky to catch someone stealing WIFI as it is a 43 year old bloke pretending to be a teen on Facebook.

Comment by Stuart Grimshaw

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