You can write your own connective gag for these two links

Paul Raven @ 09-03-2011

Via Hack-A-Day, the oddballs at Backyard Brains demonstrate a prototype technoexoskeletal assembly for the remote control of insect pests on the move. Shorter version: RoboRoach!

RoboRoach

And via Kyle Munkittrick, (software) RoboLawyers:

The most basic linguistic approach uses specific search words to find and sort relevant documents. More advanced programs filter documents through a large web of word and phrase definitions. A user who types “dog” will also find documents that mention “man’s best friend” and even the notion of a “walk.”

The sociological approach adds an inferential layer of analysis, mimicking the deductive powers of a human Sherlock Holmes. Engineers and linguists at Cataphora, an information-sifting company based in Silicon Valley, have their software mine documents for the activities and interactions of people — who did what when, and who talks to whom. The software seeks to visualize chains of events. It identifies discussions that might have taken place across e-mail, instant messages and telephone calls.

Then the computer pounces, so to speak, capturing “digital anomalies” that white-collar criminals often create in trying to hide their activities.

For example, it finds “call me” moments — those incidents when an employee decides to hide a particular action by having a private conversation. This usually involves switching media, perhaps from an e-mail conversation to instant messaging, telephone or even a face-to-face encounter.

I should probably stop being so publicly disparaging about the legal industries, really, lest these expert systems crawl all my online witterings and decide to set me up for a fall…


Sueing Google – how far does the law extend into the internet?

Paul Raven @ 10-03-2009

judge's gavelOK, you’ve probably seen this story already, primarily re-reported with a certain muted gloating that someone got one over on the Big G; a guy called Aaron Greenspan has successfully retrieved $721 of AdSense earnings from Google by filing a small claims lawsuit against them after his account was closed without explanation.

This is great news for all the people who fear Google’s monopoly on search, but what bothers me here is the question of whether the spirit of the law that governs an internet user need necessarily prevail in any section of cyberspace said user chooses to use.

I spoke with Adam C. of AdWords once more on the phone. After pointing out that in the United States of America, the accused are generally given the right to know both the crimes they are being accused of, and the identities of their accusers, Mr. C. responded by saying that such thinking did not apply to Google’s terms of service. Effectively, Google’s position was that it was above the law, and if not any law in particular, then at least the spirit of the law.

In this case, the judge disagreed with that stance (though it should be noted that, as it appears above, it has been paraphrased by Greenspan rather than quoted directly). With the inevitable caveat that I am not a lawyer or legal professional, it strikes me that this sort of question will become increasingly important as virtual worlds proliferate.

Let’s say you get burnt in a gold-trading deal in your favourite MMO; who has legal jurisdiction over an exchange that happens entirely electronically? Just how binding is that click-through EULA for the game, or for the trading site? If you’re based in the US but the huckster is based in China, how would you go about prosecuting (if you could at all)? [via The Guardian; image by steakpinball]

Questions like this are a reminder that the internet is still a wild frontier with a whole lot of loopholes. If nation-states are weakening in influence, how will they project the legal protections of their citizens into a space that has no geography?


UK fan-fic writer on obscenity charge

Paul Raven @ 24-10-2008

In addition to the worry that their favourite author or franchise might try suing them for breach of copyright and intellectual property theft, UK writers of the more, ah, racey forms of fan-fiction have a new concern – being charged under the Obscene Publications laws.

The fan-fic in question is a kind of splatter-core horror-porn tribute to a British girl band who can’t sing in tune without digital processing, and Darryn Walker’s trial will be the first prosecution of written material under the relevant laws in twenty years. If the action against Walker is successful, it’s very bad news for slash fiction writers. [via TechDirt]