So here I am back, getting myself ready to go to Brazil on Friday. Life has been quite hectic and I have had too little time to devote to blogging. It’s tough!
Anyway, I was reading today on The Wall Street Journal (I won’t give the link to the article, because it’s only open to subscribers) that there are some Brazilian government people trying to fine Google R$7.6 million a month until it gives information about groups of alleged Neo-nazis, pedophiles and other illegal pratices in Brazil.
There are two interesting issues pointed out by this article: the difference in laws in different countries and how can this work in an international environment like the internet; and the weirdness of social networking systems that leave it open about the groups you participate (a issue also raised in the keynote speech by Jon Kleinberg (wikipedia, homepage) at SIGIR’06).
About the first issue, what can you do, as a human rights activist? You are trying to crack down on a group in your coutry, but the data is in a computer in another country that protects the privacy of those people. Technically you really can’t do anything except creating something like “the big firewall of China” and not letting people from your country access sites that will hide information that you might want to track and harvest. You are just trying to do the job that your country considered important enough to add to the laws!
This problem is classically equivalent to people storing their money in banks from countries that both don’t charge you taxes and keep you privacy, like Switzerland. What have people done about this? Pretty much nothing! They were never able to break those laws, they had to wait and monitor the person until you could find proof by looking at either transactions from banks you can monitor or physical travels and behavior of the alleged criminal. The only problem is that the internet makes crime easier to do and harder to track and this worries lawmakers.
Now onto the second issue: what is the effect of you having your social network open for anybody to see? Be afraid! I know you know that person!