The Internet’s Original Sin by Ethan Zuckerman for The Atlantic.
The basic problem with the commercial Internet, according to this writer, is the use of advertising to finance Internet services.
Because an individual advertisement on the Internet has little impact, the value of advertising is based on the ability of the firm to target individuals who are interested in this particular product. And the only way to do this is to gather data and use it to profile individuals.
Invasion of privacy is not a bug. It is a necessary feature. The reason it is necessary is that most people would rather give up their privacy than pay for Internet services.
Zuckerman thinks this is the reason that NSA surveillance is no big deal for most Americans. We’re already accustomed to giving up our privacy.
He doesn’t have a good answer as to what to do about all this, and neither do I.
How We Imprison the Poor for Crimes That Haven’t Happened Yet by Hamilton Nolan for Gawker.
The science-fiction movie Minority Report imagined a world in which it was possible to predict when people would commit crimes and to arrest them before the crime occurred. A predictive science of human behavior does not exist, but that does not stop people in authority from acting as if it did.
American courts are increasingly using what’s called “evidence-based sentencing” on which the severity of the sentence is based on a computer algorithm’s determination of the likelihood that the person will commit another crime.
In practice, what this means that that poor youth who grew up in a family without a father will get a worse sentence than a middle-class youth with access to psychiatrists and good job opportunities.
This is contrary to the basic principle of equal justice under law. If you commit a crime, you should be punished for what you did, not for what somebody thinks you may do.