[Dave Birch] Now, as I’m fond of saying, the whole real/virtual thing is a bit fuzzy. One of the areas where this is frequently demonstrated is crime…

the Habbo Hotel folks have now asked Finnish police to investigate 400 cases of “theft” in their world. Seriously. Of course it is a bit more complicated than that. They’re really upset about phishing scams that let scammers get users login information, which they then use to get into their account and transfer the virtual goods away. But that’s not really “theft” and it’s a misnomer to call it that.

[From Yet Again, Real Police Called Into Virtual World Over (Not Really) Theft Of Virtual Items | Techdirt]

Correct. This isn’t theft any more than copying an MP3 is theft, but it is closer to what we might think of as theft in that it’s fraud, but it’s fraud that prevents the rightful owner of the virtual goods from enjoying their use (which is not the case when a teenager copies a friends CD).

And, really, if Habbo Hotel users are getting phished so frequently, perhaps the Habbo developers should focus on building a better login system that is not so susceptible to simple phishing scams..

[From Yet Again, Real Police Called Into Virtual World Over (Not Really) Theft Of Virtual Items | Techdirt]

This is correct. It it wrong to expect the rest of society to pay to support a business model that is founded on technology that is not fit for purpose. You wouldn’t let carmakers sell vehicles without locks to save money while simultaneously lobbying for higher spending on the police to prevent car theft.

But here’s an interesting thought experiment. If there were a working digital identity infrastructure, would it be possible to build a working law enforcement system on top of it? I think the answer is yes, because crime and punishment would both be founded on the management of reputation. Think of the example of eBay stars: if I am a top seller on eBay, then taking away my stars is a serious punishment, much worse than fining me money or, in some cases, locking me up.

Talking about crime and punishment, copyright and downloading, remember the Digital Economy Bill? It wandered back across my idle mind earlier today when, unable to get online at Clapham Junction (the busiest section of railway in Europe and NO 3G signal), I was reading via Instapaper that

The campaign against the Digital Economy Act took a new turn with reports from the BBC that BT and Talk Talk are jointly mounting a legal challenge against the act.

[From BT and Talk Talk push for judicial review of Digital Economy Act – Legislation/regulation/privacy – ComputerworldUK]

The Digital Economy Act was, as you may recall, a technologically-incomprehensible sop to content oligarchs and nothing to do with creating a digital economy at all. One of the oddest set of claims from Big Content during the great Digital Economy Bill debate was that Britain’s security services are behind opposition to the Digital Economy Bill.

In the memo, Mollet identifies Britain’s top spies as being a stumbling block to the bill’s passage — worried, apparently, that creating a Great Firewall of Britain will make it harder for spies to spy on naughty sites

[From Leaked UK record industry memo sets out plans for breaking copyright – Boing Boing]

But, as is pointed out in the article,

someone should tell MI5 about Ipredator, the excellent proxy service from the Pirate Bay; after all, that’s the same proxy that everyone else in Britain is likely to use to get at the blocked sites if the BPI gets its way

[From Leaked UK record industry memo sets out plans for breaking copyright – Boing Boing]

Surely what will actually happen is that all traffic will become encrypted, since enterprising teenagers will soon spend ten minutes writing software to encrypt everything to avoid being caught by the Pyrate-Finder General and his minions, and the security services will find it utterly impossible to monitor any net traffic at all. I don’t think Law 2.0 (that is, applying the law developed over a few hundred years in the physical world to the virtual world) is anywhere near fit for purpose: we need a 2.5 to get by for the time being, and we need to start work on 3.0 (founded on the bedrock of digital identity) as soon as possible.

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

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