Dystoparx — Part 3

Posted on

Bill is a private investigator. He has been for many years. He has had little experience with computer systems or the operations of the Internet.

That is, until recently.

Now, while he still does not have a great understanding of the systems, he is working with computers almost exclusively. Ever since that first bust on the two kids with downloaded movies, the media industry has kept him busy. Lots of evidence to sift through. Lots of people to sue.

Copyright infringement and related acts the industry was interested in were not criminal. That meant the police would not, could not, be involved. The evidence was all here, all being collected, but someone had to find actionable content and report it to the lawyers. The lawyers could then sue.
Bill is thinking about his life. It isn’t as glamorous as finding lost loved ones or ending underground operations, but it pays. Every private investigation firm is involved at least in part with the industry. It pays.

He pages aimlessly through some data. Surely there had to be something better he could be doing than this!

Now he notices it. Right there in the data stream all this time! He is looking at what amounts to a log of all digital footprints left by a particular system. If he had been looking for infringement instead of just paging around he never would have noticed the part of the stream he is noticing now.

Bill flips quickly through the data streams looking for more evidence on another system. After quite some searching he finds it again.

Child porn.

jjdavis: Police and PIs are asking gov’t to let them use spyware to find kiddie porn.

Our protagonist is exhausted. The poor guy who reverse engineered the media industry’s spyware is free. Free after the community raised over one million dollars in fines. Somehow Nicnus got pretty directly involved in that effort. An effort that now stands in his mind as a testament to the power of mass organisation online.

Stopping kiddie porn, though, now *there* is a use for spyware tech he can be in favour of! He replies to jjdavis.

@jjdavis that sounds like a good thing.

An IM pops up:

<jjdavis> Maybe. Basing it on spoofable data, though?
<nicnus> Hmm. But all data is spoofable.
<jjdavis> Somewhat, but not like this.

A tweet comes in, a reply from Acklas:

acklas: @nicnus it’s a privacy violation. #

Nicnus isn’t worried too much about that, he types out a reply:

@acklas But it’s data that’s being collected anyway. #

jjdavis is clearly following the tweets:

<jjdavis> It’s being collected for a different purpose, though. Media guys don’t have time to go over all the data… this gives another group access to look for something different.
<nicnus> If you want your privacy protected, just encrypt everything.

Another message from Acklas, replying to someone else:

acklas: @lucy2 everyone who cares about privacy is not a perv. That’s the reasoning I fear #

Nicnus creates a chatroom and invites both Acklas and jjdavis. He pastes in a link to a webpage containing the log of his conversation with jjdavis so that Acklas is up to speed.

<acklas> Sure, we can encrypt everything, but a lot of people won’t.
<nicnus> those sorts of people have their privacy violated all the time without knowing.
<acklas> Not this much.
<jjdavis> I keep thinking about the French Revolution guillotines. What if anyone could accuse anyone of a crime and easily fabricate the necessary evidence.
<acklas> To be fair, not just anyone could.
<jjdavis> For a fee…
<nicnus> Oh…
<acklas> Oh…

Dinner with his family: that’s what faces our protagonist this evening.

It’s not that he doesn’t like his family, or that he doesn’t like dinner. The problem is more one of timing than anything else. His brother is back with the girl. The not-too-bright girl. He himself has his head far more firmly fixed in geek land than usual. What are they possibly going to talk about when all he can think of is crypto and politics, and all his brother can think of is how to avoid another emotional meltdown with what’s-her-face.

It’s time to go. Phone in his pocket, laptop in his backpack, Nicnus catches the bus. He sits somewhere near the back and pulls out his phone. His feeds and messages from mailing lists he’s on have been piling up. His finger flicks across the screen, his eyes scanning the headlines and subjects.

Something jostles his leg and his head snaps up. The bus is crowded and someone has sat down next to him. He squishes over to make room, and his mind returns to his phone. Companies dying and raising money, features being requested and built, and everywhere a little more worry about privacy and copyright than in the past.

Nicnus gets off the bus in front of his parents’ house. It’s quite nice that they live right on a major bus route. From the sound inside he can tell his brother has already arrived, and that his brother brought the girl. He takes a deep breath before entering. He never knocks here: he grew up in this house.

The girl is telling some story about what happened to her walking home from the mall. From the apparent emotion in her voice you’d think that almost tripping over a dog because you pay no attention to the world around you is the most exciting thing that can happen.

Nicnus can smell the dinner cooking. His mother makes amazing food, or at least he thinks she does. Certainly better than the toast, canned soup, and pizza he eats much of the rest of the time. His mother calls and soon they’re all seated in the kitchen saying grace, after which there is no need to converse for awhile, except to comment on how hungry one is and how good the food smells and tastes.

Nicnus is happy. Good food, good family, his worry was certainly unfounded. He’ll have to put up with some stupidity from the girl, no doubt, but that’s not so bad. He is munching along happily when his mother, of all people, asks him if he’s heard about the new measures being proposed to finally crack down on child pornography on the Internet.

He thinks for a moment, weighing out what he should say. He’s not sure what she wants to hear, nor is he completely sure of his own opinion. Finally he speaks. “I think it could be dangerous.”

The girl speaks up quickly. “How can stopping child abuse be dangerous?”

He glares at her, biting out his reply, “I said the measures in question could be dangerous.”

His mother can smell trouble while it is far off, and she steps in to attempt a course correction now. “I was just curious, no need to get upset.”

“But there is need,” the girl has no intention of being helpful, “the Internet has been a problem for years.”

“Hold on,” says the brother, “I don’t think you mean to say the Internet is a problem–”

Now she is quite visibly upset, “But I do! What good has technology brought? Wars, pollution, porn, abuse, theft, money laundering, no good at all!”

Nicnus’ brain is confused. She hates all technology? What does that even mean? She watches movies, and probably doesn’t mind handplows…

Some time later the discussion has fizzled out around him. The girl is signalling strongly to his brother that they should leave. He recalls his father speaking in favour of the Internet, getting the discussion back on track a little. Ultimately, however, the girl was very unreasonable. His brother finally picks up on his girlfriend’s hints and they take their leave.

Nicnus is left for awhile making small-talk with his parents until the next bus. Normally he would suck at this, but he’s had such conversations with his parents all his life. Finally, he is walking to the bus: head awhirl, and a little upset. How could anyone hate the Internet?

His phone is in his hand, earphones in his ears, his finger spinning through his music for something to restore order. He punches up some Technical Death Metal and Power Metal and hits random. The wall of powerful sound reaches deep into him, slowly restoring order as he rides home.

2 Responses

Daniel J. Weber

I think this is more hilarious to me as I can see the real life similarities having grown up with you. 😉 It brings a new element of humour which I quite enjoy.

Leave a Response