New Child Pornography Software

In an effort to fight online child pornography, a researcher from the Polytechnic Institute of New York Universtity has developed software that allows authorities to sift through deleted photos in a computer’s trash to search for “potentially explicit images of children.”

The program scans for faces of children, nudity and other features to help flag images that could possibly be illegal contraband.

Using specialized techniques, the software has the ability to measure the distance between a person’s eyes and nose to determine whether it is a child or not. Photos must be a completely frontal depiction of the child’s face, which many times these kinds of photos are not.

The software was designed to help law enforcers capture sex offenders during a time when this kind of illegal activity is on the rise.  Proving only to be 70% accurate, it tries to alleviate some of the difficulties authorities have in fighting this problem. One such MAJOR hurdle is the fact that in developing this kind of software, it’s not only illegal for the sex offenders to view child porn but also the people developing the software to fight against it.

While this takes some great strides in online regulation, is it completely ethical? Is digging through someone’s digital trash for clues of child pornography (only to be 70% accurate) fair to those being accused? Should we hold off on implementing software like this till all the kinks are worked out? Or is this software, even with the kinks, an immediate necessity?

New Smart Phone “App” Pose Safety Hazard?

I can still remember the news station back home that would always end a broadcast with a call to action, saying “If you see news, visit our website or call us at 319-555-5555” (or something to that effect). We’ve come a long way since then. Now, our civic duties can be fulfilled right from our smart phones. With a new smart phone application, select cities are now enabling its constituents to report “potholes, graffiti and other issues directly to their city.”

“After being downloaded onto a smart phone, the software…allows a citizen to take pictures of a problem and with a click of a button, e-mail it directly to city officials with the exact coordinates of where the picture was taken.”

Now I could get into the privacy issue around “the exact coordinates where the picture was taken,” but I’m going to leave that for someone else to dispute. My concern lies with the struggle between fulfilling our civic duty to report the news and the safety hazards this may cause.

I think this application is a great promoter in getting people involved in their cities and towns and by allowing citizens to report what affects them on daily basis is what empowers people to make changes. This I find revolutionary and exciting, however, I don’t think the circumstances around this ‘app’ have been clearly thought through.

They use the example of reporting a pothole, (which I think many would argue is a great thing; save people from the many annoying car rides along a certain Sheridan Rd.) but how are people supposed to take a picture and send it via their phones, if in most cases, their driving? Seems a bit ironic since the purpose of the application is to correct something that may endanger drivers, bikers, etc., don’t you think? Can it be said that this poses a safety hazard like texting? Even in the case of graffiti, many people would notice this while driving, so to exercise your civic ability to inform, are they putting themselves, as well as others, in danger?

While the intention behind this application is commendable (I think it’s hard to dispute that), I’m not convinced this is thoroughly thought through. What do you guys think?

Morality Meter

MTV and morality? For as long as I can remember, MTV has had a reputation of promoting controversial behavior. From binge drinking to bar fights; from sex crazed Real Worlders to drug addicts, MTV has documented what appears to be the drama of “life”. I mean it’s good TV I suppose, but when I read this article about MTV’s new project to clean up youngsters digital conduct, I was a bit skeptical.

In an effort to create awareness between proper and offensive behavior in the digital world, MTV has launched “Over the Line,” an online application that allows users to rate whether their text messages, emails, and other digital messages cross the line from being “innocent to inappropriate.”

“The new tool lets teens share and rate stories about sexting, constant messages, spying, cyberbullying, digital-dating abuse and other forms of abuse. The idea is that, along the way, the teens will figure out which behaviors really are ‘over the line.’”

While I think this is all well and good, I wonder how a network like MTV can provide a real sense of morality when most of its shows are promoting just the opposite. Can it be said that because it is known for promoting inappropriate behavior, that this application will provide a comfortable space to share opinions on what people feel is indecent in the digital world? Or is this just an effort by MTV to counterbalance its scandalous shows with a sense of social responsibility?

Olympian death

This has no relation to the topic we are talking about in class right now but I couldn’t help but notice the coverage of the Georgian Olympian that died this past weekend. For those of you who don’t know what happened, a Georgian luger was killed when he was thrown from his sled making a tight turn on the Olympic course. What I found disturbing, and completely unnecessary, was that NBC was televising it (in their coverage of the games) the footage of the 21-year-old flying off of his sled and hitting a pole which resulted in his death. They literally showed him being killed. Two days after they aired the footage, Bob Costas stated that they will not be showing the footage again for the remainder of the games. For me, it never should have been shown in the first place. The sanctity of someone’s life far outweighs the importance of a news story and I think it was completely inappropriate for it ever to have aired.

When it comes to death, what is appropriate to be shown? Should the family members have a say in whether images like this can go public?