[Dave Birch] There’s a real problem.  Perverts are using e-mail and instant messaging to contact children and lure them into dangerous situations.  Politicians need to find a solution — one, naturally, that will attract good newspaper headlines but not involve actually having to learn anything about the dynamics of the (complicated) problem — so they come up with an absolute corker.  Get perverts to register their e-mail addresses and IM names.  Home Secretary John Reid has also ordered work to be carried out, presumably by management consultants, on the feasibility of an online alarm system which would notify police every time a convicted paedophile used their registered details to log on to an internet chatroom, or any other site which could be used to "groom" victims.  Well, that’s that taken care of then, on to world hunger.

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This innovative new approach to law enforcement is not confined to the UK.  Similar laws are being introduced into the US, including a bill introduced by by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) at the end of last year.  It demands the same kind of registration. His law, titled "Stop the Online Exploitation of Our Children Act," requires sex offenders to register e-mail addresses, IM names, and chat room handles. Failure to do so could result in a 10-year jail term.

Now, I wouldn’t go as far as some commentators and call the UK plan and complete and utter waste of money, worse than useless (because it engenders an entirely false sense of security) and profoundly stupid (since it would take a pervert 5 seconds to get a new e-mail address).  But I do to say that our Members of Parliament (MPs) have form here.  A while back, the head of the all-party IT group suggested that a way to stop spam would be to require all internet users to have their postcode as as part of their e-mail addresses.  Then, if they someone sends you spam, you’ll know (roughly) where they live.  Warning: I am not making this up.

Can I be the first to suggest than we combine these two brilliant plans into one instead of developing a well-developed and workable model for national identity management?  Why not get perverts to have e-mail addresses that include the word "pervert" and their post code.  Thus, if you get a message from john.doe.PERVERT@sw11aa.co.uk, you can not only report the sender to the police immediately but they will know where to go and look for him.

How on Earth can we ever get these people to understand either the real issues around 21st century identity or the range of solutions that technology can make available, if their understanding of the problem space is so bad that it’s not even wrong.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public.
[posted with ecto]

1 comment

  1. This is really funny. Why would a pervert use this email when connecting to a site. It’s not like he wants to get caught. He’s doing something illegal, and some law about having a special email is not something they will pay attention to.
    Second of all, we keep telling our kids to not use their real names on the internet. If rules about email-addresses should apply to everyone, that will certainly help perverts to know who to contact (those who live nearby).
    Nominated to “worst suggestion ever award” (someone should start giving out an award like this).
    Good that these utterly stupid suggestions are brought to our attention (and I like your sarcastic twist to it)

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