We Robot: The Conference

This looks like it has the potential to be a very interesting event:

A human and robotinc hand reaching towards each other, reminiscent of Da Vinci

The University of Miami School of Law seeks submissions for “We Robot” – an inaugural conference on legal and policy issues relating to robotics to be held in Coral Gables, Florida on April 21 & 22, 2012. We invite contributions by academics, practitioners, and industry in the form of scholarly papers or presentations of relevant projects.

We seek reports from the front lines of robot design and development, and invite contributions for works-in-progress sessions. In so doing, we hope to encourage conversations between the people designing, building, and deploying robots, and the people who design or influence the legal and social structures in which robots will operate.

Robotics seems increasingly likely to become a transformative technology. This conference will build on existing scholarship exploring the role of robotics to examine how the increasing sophistication of robots and their widespread deployment everywhere from the home, to hospitals, to public spaces, and even to the battlefield disrupts existing legal regimes or requires rethinking of various policy issues.

They’re still looking for papers at: http://www.we-robot.com. I encourage you to submit a paper on who will get successfully sued when the newly armed police drones turn out to be no more secure than Predators, with their viruses and unencrypted connections. (Of course, maybe the malware was just spyware.) Bonus points for entertainingly predicting quotes from the manufacturers about how no one could have seen that coming. Alternately, what will happen when the riot-detection algorithms decide that policemen who’ve covered their barcodes are the rioters, and opens fire on them?

The possibilities for emergent chaos are nearly endless.

Telephones and privacy

Three stories, related by the telephone, and their impact on privacy:

  • CNN reports that your cell phone is being tracked in malls:

    Starting on Black Friday and running through New Year’s Day, two U.S. malls — Promenade Temecula in southern California and Short Pump Town Center in Richmond, Va. — will track guests’ movements by monitoring the signals from their cell phones.


    Still, the company is preemptively notifying customers by hanging small signs around the shopping centers. Consumers can opt out by turning off their phones.


    The tracking system, called FootPath Technology, works through a series of antennas positioned throughout the shopping center that capture the unique identification number assigned to each phone (similar to a computer’s IP address), and tracks its movement throughout the stores.

    The company in question is Path Intelligence, and they claim that since they’re only capturing IMSI numbers, it’s anonymous. However, the IMSI is the name by which the phone company calls you. It’s a label which identifies a unique phone (or the SIM card inside of it) which is pretty darned closely tied to a person. The IMSI identifies a person more accurately and effectively than an IP address. The EU regulates IP addresses as personally identifiable information. Just because the IMSI is not easily human-readable does not make it anonymous, and does not make it not-a-name.

    It’s really not clear to me how Path Intelligence’s technology is legal anywhere that has privacy or wiretap laws.

  • Kashmir Hill at Forbes reports on “How Israeli Spies Were Betrayed By Their Cell Phones“:

    Using the latest commercial software, Nasrallah’s spy-hunters unit began methodically searching for traitors in Hezbollah’s midst. To find them, U.S. officials said, Hezbollah examined cellphone data looking for anomalies. The analysis identified cellphones that, for instance, were used rarely or always from specific locations and only for a short period of time. Then it came down to old-fashioned, shoe-leather detective work: Who in that area had information that might be worth selling to the enemy?

    This reminds me of the bin Laden story: he was found in part because he had no phone or internet service. What used to be good tradecraft now stands out. Of course, maybe some innocent folks were just opting out of Path Intelligence. Hmmm. I wonder who makes that “latest commercial software” Nasrallah’s team is using?

  • Who’s on the Line? Increasingly, Caller ID Is Duped“, Matt Richtel, The New York Times

    Caller ID has been celebrated as a defense against unwelcome phone pitches. But it is backfiring.

    Telemarketers increasingly are disguising their real identities and phone numbers to provoke people to pick up the phone. “Humane Soc.” may not be the Humane Society. And think the I.R.S. is on the line? Think again.

    Caller ID, in other words, is becoming fake ID.

    “You don’t know who is on the other end of the line, no matter what your caller ID might say,” said Sandy Chalmers, a division manager at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Wisconsin.

    Starting this summer, she said, the state has been warning consumers: “Do not trust your caller ID. And if you pick up the phone and someone asks for your personal information, hang up.”
    ()

    I’m shocked that a badly designed invasion of privacy doesn’t offer the security people think it does.

    When I say badly designed, I’m referring to inline signaling late in the signal, not to mention that the Bells already had ANI. But they didn’t want to risk the privacy concerns with caller-ID impacting on ANI, so they designed an alternative.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-11-27

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Relentless navel gazing, part MCXII

Two changes here at Emergent Chaos this weekend: first, a new, variable width theme which is a little tighter, so there’s more on a screen. Second, I’ve moved the twitter summary to weekly, as comments were running about 50-50 on the post asking for opinion. I think that may be a better balance.

And a bonus third: someone else’s navel for you to gaze at:

cute belly button

What’s Wrong and What To Do About It?

Pike floyd
Let me start with an extended quote from “Why I Feel Bad for the Pepper-Spraying Policeman, Lt. John Pike“:

They are described in one July 2011 paper by sociologist Patrick Gillham called, “Securitizing America.” During the 1960s, police used what was called “escalated force” to stop protesters.

“Police sought to maintain law and order often trampling on protesters’ First Amendment rights, and frequently resorted to mass and unprovoked arrests and the overwhelming and indiscriminate use of force,” Gillham writes and TV footage from the time attests. This was the water cannon stage of police response to protest.

But by the 1970s, that version of crowd control had given rise to all sorts of problems and various departments went in “search for an alternative approach.” What they landed on was a paradigm called “negotiated management.” Police forces, by and large, cooperated with protesters who were willing to give major concessions on when and where they’d march or demonstrate. “Police used as little force as necessary to protect people and property and used arrests only symbolically at the request of activists or as a last resort and only against those breaking the law,” Gillham writes.

That relatively cozy relationship between police and protesters was an uneasy compromise that was often tested by small groups of “transgressive” protesters who refused to cooperate with authorities. They often used decentralized leadership structures that were difficult to infiltrate, co-opt, or even talk with. Still, they seemed like small potatoes.

Then came the massive and much-disputed 1999 WTO protests. Negotiated management was seen to have totally failed and it cost the police chief his job and helped knock the mayor from office. “It can be reasonably argued that these protests, and the experiences of the Seattle Police Department in trying to manage them, have had a more profound effect on modern policing than any other single event prior to 9/11,” former Chicago police officer and Western Illinois professor Todd Lough argued.

Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper gives his perspective in “Paramilitary Policing From Seattle to Occupy Wall Street“:

“We have to clear the intersection,” said the field commander. “We have to clear the intersection,” the operations commander agreed, from his bunker in the Public Safety Building. Standing alone on the edge of the crowd, I, the chief of police, said to myself, “We have to clear the intersection.”

Why?

Because of all the what-ifs. What if a fire breaks out in the Sheraton across the street? What if a woman goes into labor on the seventeenth floor of the hotel? What if a heart patient goes into cardiac arrest in the high-rise on the corner? What if there’s a stabbing, a shooting, a serious-injury traffic accident? How would an aid car, fire engine or police cruiser get through that sea of people? The cop in me supported the decision to clear the intersection. But the chief in me should have vetoed it. And he certainly should have forbidden the indiscriminate use of tear gas to accomplish it, no matter how many warnings we barked through the bullhorn.

My support for a militaristic solution caused all hell to break loose. Rocks, bottles and newspaper racks went flying. Windows were smashed, stores were looted, fires lighted; and more gas filled the streets, with some cops clearly overreacting, escalating and prolonging the conflict. The “Battle in Seattle,” as the WTO protests and their aftermath came to be known, was a huge setback—for the protesters, my cops, the community.

Product reviews on Amazon for the Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream pepper spray are funny, as is the Pepper Spraying Cop Tumblr feed.

But we have a real problem here. It’s not the pepper spray that makes me want to cry, it’s how mutually-reinforcing up a set of interlocking systems have become. It’s the police thinking they can arrest peaceful people for protesting, or for taking video of them It’s a court system that’s turned “deference” into a spineless art, even when it’s Supreme Court justices getting shoved aside in their role as legal observers. It’s a political system where we can’t even agree to ban the TSA, or work out a non-arbitrary deal on cutting spending. It’s a set of corporatist best practices that allow the system to keep on churning along despite widespread revulsion.

So what do we do about it? Civil comments welcome. Venting welcome. Just keep it civil with respect to other commenters.

Image: Pike Floyd, by Kosso K

Twitter Updates from Adam, 2011-11-24

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Twitter Updates from Adam, 2011-11-23

  • NYTimes reports man bites dog, I mean "Screening Still a Pain at Airports, Fliers Say" http://t.co/vlPAH1n0 #
  • New School blog post, "AT&T Hack Attempt" I'm looking for polling software http://t.co/d4YooBv9 #
  • I missed a great opportunity in a recent podcast to say "controls implemented in a way that makes both auditors & attackers happy" #
  • RT @oneraindrop @adamshostack Union of Attacker wishlist & Auditor checklist = Best Practices #
  • RT @slaveSqueakAlot Remember when Westboro Baptist Church was picketing funerals/being asshats & they got pepper sprayed? Yeah, me neither #

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