Thursday, September 18, 2008

Computers scanned at Customs? Boycott the studios...

I wrote this in response to a discussion on TechRepublic.
The original video on TechRepublic
The Comments Thread
Customs Issues (Boycott the studios!)
I think its a stretch to hire, train and equip overloaded customs agents with the ability to inspect computer files. I don't agree with the direction of this law, but I believe the point of it is that there is no requirement for a court order to search files. In the current environment it would be used to inspect computers when the agent saw a need.

Its downfall lies in the future when some neanderthal politician declares that a port scanner is an illegal tool.

The modern day equivalent of bringing someone in for having a carpenter's toolbox in the car.

Let's say customs implements automated scanning software to find 'illegal' files, the customs agent has no knowledge what the files are, she just runs a scan. "Ahem. Sir, please stand over there..." And your teenager gets stopped for Beyonce videos...

Then they will let her in, but make a record of all the potentially illegal media on her PC. The studios fight to gain access to that. Someone stores the log file in perpetuity.

In response, average people will start running installations that have a 'vanilla' Windows installation - leaving the rest of the disk encrypted with the real juice hidden from a casual scan. There is lots of software already heading in this direction. People want it so that they can hide their internet porn from family members and law enforcement.

Keyloggers are being sold today for spouses to spy on each other online. And of course the studios are the porn industry. "Give 'em what they want."

Not too far a stretch to see this having the effect that the government is encouraging individuals to learn how to be espionage agents.

There really are three choices.
1) Give up all your electronics.
2) Live with arbitrary laws that exist only to make big companies money. (But at the end of the day you know cancer is a bigger worry than Disney and even Microsoft...)
3) Become Ted Kazinsky (without the bombs, please).

Myself, I am heading towards #1 from #2. I would rather stop listening to music than jump through hoops to get it onto my MP3 player without copy protection.

I am reluctant to fund the studios that are lobbying for these restrictive laws.

Besides, that leaves us a few bucks to send to our local college radio stations. College radio plays what they like - not controlled by the studios 'idea' of what will sell...

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