Privacy laws & the web

Getting to know you

“♫ ♫ ♫ Getting to know you . . .

Getting to know all about you . . . . ♫ ♫ ♫”

So goes the old song, and in today’s age of instant access to information, it’s easy to find-out all sorts of personal details about people. This article notes that web vigilantes and psychopaths will now publish personal details about private citizens with alarming frequency.

The ability to “shame” people on the web can be a powerful tool for stopping illegal behavior, but it has a huge potential for abuse by the millions of weirdo’s and perverts on the Internet.

Sicko scum love the web anonymity

Me, I check-out everyone my daughter and son hangs-out with, and people are surprised to find-out that many services can deliver details about your most embarassing and shameful acts. They say that everyone has “skeletons in their closet“, and they are now accessible in just a few minutes.

All of your arrest and jail records are

instantly available as public information

You will learn about their drunken debacle at college, their late-payment of loans, their illegitimate bastard child, and complete details of every time they were arrested (even if they were not convicted), right-down to a parking ticket!

Today you have to do extensive background checks on all job applicants to avoid lawsuits for “negligent hiring”, and you must do “due diligence” to ensure that the new employee does not pose a risk to other employees.

Bill Gates and I lived in Albuquerque at the same time, and even though I only met him once (in a social setting, not work related), I just love his APD mug shot for unpaid parking tickets. For a small fee, you can now get mug shots of private citizens, it’s all public information:

Billionaire Bill Gates mug shot for unpaid parking tickets

Anyway, in the course of hiring employees, I’ve found out appalling details about “respectable” folks with all sorts of awful behavior, from criminal acts to heroin possession.

Dirtbags – Fake military heroes

I work with computers, and I’ve worked with “information consolidators”, companies dedicated to gathering all public records, to put everything at your fingertips. I recommend services such as US Search to quickly find-out embarrassing details about friends and co-workers. In cheap and fast and you will be AMAZED at what you find!

Anyway, read my notes on revealing personal information.

For details on your recourse for having your personal details published on the web, see the book “Web Stalkers“.

forum poster verification techniques

Introducing the next generation of anti-spam technology

I host a technical forum and I’m always surprised at the sophistication of the automated forum spam bots. They register with the forum, answer the confirmation e-mail, and them proceed to post pornography and links to penis enlargement, Photoshopped pictures of celebrities naughty bits, and other raunchy stuff.

Even though the CDA excepts me from responsibility for the postings of other people, that’s only in the USA, and I must always be vigilant to remove any content that is obscene, infringing or defamatory.

I’ve been forced to implement sophisticated anti-spam bit measures to counteract this automated web pollution, but it’s only a matter of time before the old-fashioned word verifications are conquered by the spammers:

Here are my notes on the future of spam bot prevention techniques.

The really scary stuff is coming from the spam bit criminals who post photo’s and links to child pornography on innocent forums and blogs. If you no not practice “semper vigilance”, you may get an unwanted visit from the FBI.

So, what can be done to thwart these spammer monsters?

First, all spam verifications models pair an image with a string answer, and it’s easy to make more sophisticated verifications:

The spammers won’t take long to use letter recognition technologies and more sophisticated verification methods must be incorporated to stop the spam bots. You can also incorporate simple math problems into your blogger comment verification:

But that’s no fun. The possibilities for improving anti-spam bot are endless, and you can weed-out lame comments from real human users by testing their knowledge of current events:

As we see, there are lots of screening possibilities for blog and forum posting verification and we could also test blog commenter’s for their political knowledge:

You will soon be able to create your own blog comment verification questions and you can make them screen-out people who don’t share your academic interests:

If you want to be controversial, bloggers could incorporate sick and offensive humor into their blog verification questions:

Note: This is just an example of inappropriate verification questions, only for illustrative purposes. I don’t find this sick humor the slightest bit funny, so please don’t send me e-mails!

Mark my word, as soon as we get control over our verification questions, corporate America will enter the picture and offer payment in-return for using corporate questions as anti-spam verification:

The future may change, but I predict that the spam bots will continue to get more sophisticated, requiring more counter-measures from bloggers and forum hosts.

Bad science "debunkers" charged with libel!

Fake “debunkers” under attack for libel

I greatly enjoyed the book “Freakonomics”, but I was skeptical when Levitt set forth to “debunk” the alleged “bad science” that is prevalent in today’s scientific world and I have distain for anyone who uses rigged and biased studies to support their pre-conceived conclusions.

I liked Freakonomics only because it is a fusion of statistics, economics and sociology, but its’ very premise suggests that the research he debunks is basically flawed. Even the apples-to-oranges picture on the book cover says that the studies he cites are invalid:

I’m always skeptical of people who seek to discredit and “debunk” the works of others, and most of the “debunking” articles that I read are full of baloney. It also begs the question about whether it’s OK to defame someone’s research on mere speculation and perhaps ruin their reputation, simply by authoritatively citations of “possible” alternative explanations.

Levitt makes many convincing arguments in Freakonomics, but unlike those he seeks to debunk, we do not see empirical evidence in the book. When I was growing up in New Mexico in the 1960’s, all elementary school children had to watch Dr. George Fishbeck every week, a real-deal scientist who taught thousands of children how to recognize crap science:

Scientist, Dr. George Fishbeck

Lawsuits to stop rigged debunk defamation

In my own observations, the people who like to “debunk” the research of others are giant assholes, often motivated by malice and jealousy. As a general rule, I’ve noticed that many “debunkers” take great poains to sound intelligent, spouting meaningless tautologies and citing “rigged” proofs, just to defame their competitors. I think that many professional debunkers do it to shore-up their low self-esteem and to make them feel better about their lack of success.

Telling Lies for fame and fortune

It gets interesting when a “debunker” becomes wealthy from their “debunking”, especially when they cheat, lie and publishing deliberately rigged “proofs”.

The tables are turned when money is involved, and “real” scientists whose research has been unfairly “debunked” by publicity-seeking pseudo-scientists are now rightfully seek restitution using libel and defamation laws.

Author Stephen Levitt became a book royalty millionaire by applying common sense and social observations to statistical studies, but some say that Freakonomics deliberately misleads and deceives, unfairly discrediting legitimate research.

The landmark book “How to Lie with Statistics” is the “debunkers” dreams, a book that shows how to deceive by rigging statistics.

The attacks on false debunking

For example, Freakonomics makes rediculous leaps of causation. Levitt claims that crime rates fell as a result of legalized abortion in 1973 and Levitt makes the compelling, yet unproven, argument that unwanted children are more likely to drift into crime.

This article suggests that the author Steven Levitt may have been wrong in his conclusion that the higher abortion rates after Roe v. Wade, 1973, resulted in lower crime rates.

For other trends, the DOJ has plotted crime rate data since 1973 and notes a dramatic drop in crime rates starting in 1993. Ah, Levitt notes that 1993 was the year that the aborted fetuses would have been 20 years-old, prime-time for criminal activity.

USA crime rates started dropping in 1993

But Levitt does not consider other possible factors such as the 1993 creation of the Ruby programming language by Yukihiro Matsumoto. Based on Levitt’s “observational” approach, it’s just as possible that the crooks simply gave-up crime to pursue a career in Ruby programming . . .

The Freakonomics lawsuit – justice for all

Freakonomics author Levitt is now being sued by firearms scholar John Lott, the publisher of a study suggesting that allowing concealed weapons reduced crime, a theory which was “debunked” in Freakonomics. Unfortunately, most readers of Freakonomices don’t know that “debunkers” are usually full of crap.

John Lott says that Levitt cheated and lied when he “debunked” his study. More onerous, Lott claims that Levitt libeled him when he wrote a lie stating that Lott used his wealth to “buy” whole issue of an academic journal, just to run research that supported his theory. Below is the alleged libel. It sure sounds like a statement of fact to me, and Levitt is going to be hard-pressed to find a judge who is stupid enough to believe that this is just his opinion:

“It was not a peer refereed edition of the Journal. For $15,000 [Lott] was able to buy an issue and put in only work that supported him.

My best friend was the editor and was outraged the press let Lott do this.”

Moreover, Levitt has been charged with “misleading” the Freakonomics readers by suggesting that there is a “broad consensus” that Lott’s study is wrong, a statement of fact that Lott says is a lie, a lie that falsely hurt his academic reputation.

The judge has already ruled that Levitt’s publication is actionable, meaning that it does indeed defame him. The next hurdle is easy:

– Lott must prove that the statement is false

– The judge must decide if Lott is a “limited purpose public figure”.

If the judge rules that Lott is a public figure, he will have to prove that Levitt acted with malice and a disregard for the truth. From what I read, that’s not a hard stretch, given his casual justifications for the Freakonomics “debunkings”.

We have enough junk science already, thank you:

Junk Science misleads the masses

Let’s put credibility back into scientific research

Go get ‘em, John. Let’s hope this this judge sends a message to liars and “debunkers” that they cannot become rich and famous by unfairly trashing the hard-earned reputations of legitimate scientists.

Prison for Mike Nifong?

Nifong is in big trouble

On CNN today, the parents of the falsely accused Duke Lacrosse players explained their zeal to have Nifong and the false victim jailed.

Nifong has messed with the wrong mothers”, the mothers said, and as well all know, Hell hath no hath like a mother scorned.

People here are debating how many years in prison Mike Nifong should serve for his abuse of the public trust, and the folks that I know say that at Nifong should spend at least a decade in prison for abusing the public trust, while others are hoping for life in prison:

Yesterday’s news noted that the fake victim changes her story so frequently that she is clearly unaware that she may also face a stiff prison term:

“In the hours after the party, the defense has said, she variously estimated the number of attackers at three to 20. At one point, she said she had not been raped at all.”

North Carolinians are extremely angry that David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges. It’s time for the authorities to put an end to this farce and bring justice against the real offenders.

On the Chain . . .

North Carolina is notoriously tough on crime, and us tarheels have a strong sense of justice. We have chain gangs here in North Carolina and many foreigners don’t realize that tarheels have no qualms with imposing many years of hard labor for bad guys.

A North Carolina Chain gang

Prosecuting the real villains

Obviously, there are two villains here, District Attorney Mike Nifong and the judgment-proof fake rape victim whose false statements should soon land her on an NC prison chain gang for many years.

This crypto-hooker recently gave birth to a child, and according to ABC news she had sex with many men, none of whom were the Duke Lacrosee players:

“Lab director Brian Meehan found genetic material from several men — though none of them were Duke lacrosse players — in samples taken from the body of the accuser the night she said she was allegedly gang-raped.”

If Nifong had bothered to check the extensive criminal history of the victim, this crap case would never had been filed:

“According to a 2002 police report, the woman, currently a 27-year-old student at North Carolina Central University, gave a taxi driver a lap dance at a Durham strip club.

Subsequently, according to the report, she stole the man’s car and led deputies on a high-speed chase that ended in Wake County.”

Now, the district attorney Mike Nifong has been charged with ethics violations and he will surely be disbarred, but this is not enough justice for the real victims, the Duke Lacrosse players:

– “Nifong referred to the lacrosse players as “a bunch of hooligans.”

– He declared: “I am convinced there was a rape, yes, sir.”

– He told ESPN: “One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.”

– He told The New York Times: “I’m disappointed that no one has been enough of a man to come forward. And if they would have spoken up at the time, this may never have happened.”

– Nifong was also charged with breaking a rule against “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.” The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence a lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used a condom.”

Sadly, dishonest attorney’s are an epidemic ni America, and it’s time to start cleaning-up the profession, starting with elected prosecutors.

Anyway, the Lacrosse Mom’s have declared war, and it’s now only a matter of time before we see real justice.

What’s a fair prison term for the fake victim and Mike Nifong?

When you have a dirt-poor person making false allegations that could have landed these kids in prison for 30 years, civil remedies are not enough, and criminal sanctions are needed to stop judgement-proof scum from making wanton allegations.

Many po’ folks think that they can say whatever they want with impunity since nobody would waste good money suing an indigent. This has to change, and a stiff prison term for the fake victim will send the message.

This case is an offense my sense of justice, and I’m sure that the Duke Mom’s will ensure that there will be serious criminal repercussions against the false victim and Mike Nifong.

Many citizens of North Carolina are outraged, and we are hopeful that the N.C. Attorney General will bring-down the hammer and find a way to put this fake victim and Mike Nifong in jail, where many folks say they both belong:

“If justice were to prevail, the woman who lied will end up in jail. Mike NiFong will not only be removed from office, but jailed as well.”

Kim Roberts, the convicted felon & alleged witness

“Crooked District Attorney Mike Nifong and the head of a private DNA lab criminally colluded to suppress DNA test results that exculpated 3 Duke University lacrosse players accused of raping a black stripper.

Brian Meehan, the chief at the private DNA lab, admitted under oath that his report omitted the exculpatory evidence, and that Mike Nifong and his investigators were aware of the results.

Mike Nifong should be unemployable for the rest of his life. In fact, he should go to prison for prosecutorial abuse, and pay restitution to the Duke students-as should the falsely-accusing stripper, who has, unfortunately, just given birth to a child. The state legislature should impeach Mike Nifong.”

How the Lacrosse Mom’s will get Nifong and the fake victim into prison

There are a number of felony charges that Nifong might face including “prosecutorial abuse”, “criminal collusion”, “malicious prosecution”, fraud and betrayal of the public trust. The most onerous, of course, is his abuse of power. Most states put crooked policemen into prison, and the same may happen to Nifong and this phony victim.

As for the phony victim, the citizens of NC need to send a loud and clear message that we will not tolerate false witnesses. This fake victim should spend many years in prison, other fake victims will think twice before making allegations that can send innocent people to prison. If it was just that Martha Stewart got five months in prison for h
er false testimony, then this fake rape victim should be facing decades in the pokey.

Watch out, the Mom’s are comin for ya . . .

When I heard the Duke mothers tell CNN that Nifong and the victim “messed with the wrong mothers”, it sent chills down my spine.

Their attitude and tone made it clear that they will see justice done, even if it takes years. The Mom’s join the outraged citizens of NC who remain hopeful that Nifong and the fake rape victim will rot in prison for many. many years . . . .

Taxidermy real stuffed pony!

Real stuffed ponies

For those of you who don’t like fake stuffed ponies, this fellow will freeze dry a real pony for you. He doesn’t say, but we assume that you must first kill the pony or find one that has died of natural causes.

Just imagine the look on your kid’s face when they get a deceased cutie like this:

On eBay you can also buy real animal pelt rugs and home accessories.

Free the McMissle wife!

The McMissile Case

Folks around here are outraged because a local North Carolina woman is facing two years in prison for tossing a McDonald cup into another car while hurling down I-95. This article notes that this Marine wife was not going to put-up with getting flipped-off by a civilian:

“Testimony varies–drivers were cut off, birds were flipped–but one point is clear:

Hall tossed a McDonald’s cup (containing ice) into Mr. Ballin’s vehicle.”

Now, Jessica (whose Marine Corp. husband is serving in Iraq) was charged with “throwing a missile at an occupied vehicle”, a class IV Felony punishable by ten year in prison! Oh Please, what a joke!

The hamburgular gets a roommate

Mr. Ballin must be the biggest jerk in the world to go to the police over such trivia. I wonder if the State trooper laughed when Ballin said that he got whupped by a cup of McDonald’s ice, tossed by a 24 year-old Marine wife who didn’t like being thrown the finger.

Besides, what kind of asswipe flips the finger at a woman?

Balin should have been arrested for being a pussy in public . . . .

Lets punish the bird flippers

Whether you call it “giving the one finger salute”, “flipping the bird”, “tossing the finger” or being “flipped off”, I’ve personally seen people run off the road for making obscene gestures. Evidently, middle fingers are also called “birds” and they are flipped, tossed and thrown and saluted at motorists with alarming frequency. Wikipedia notes this on bird flipping:

“The origin of this gesture is highly speculative, but is quite possibly up to 2,500 years old.

It is identified as the digitus impudicus (“impudent finger”) in Ancient Roman writings[1] and reference is made to using the finger in the Ancient Greek comedy The Clouds by Aristophanes.”

Legally, flipping the bird is called an “obscene gesture” or “aggravated menacing”, a serious offense. I decided to do some ad-hoc research.

I was surprised to learn that George Bush (then Texas Governor Bush), was fooling around before a TV show and flipped this bird:

George Bush (real – not photoshopped)

Click this link to see the actual, un-edited video where President Bush “flips the bird”.

While folks disagree about Mr. Bush’s job performance, everybody likes making fun of his “mannerisms”. Gary Trudeau, author of the legendary “Doonesbury” does best of all, by publishing hilarious (and true) “Bush-isms”.

Here is what I found on finger flippers:

– According to the great blog, Dumb-ass-daily, Steve Gilgenbach was cut-off in traffic and flipped off. Like any red-blooded American he fired his crossbow at the car. He was charged with committing a terrorist act.

This jackass flipped at finger to President Bush in a motorcade (Bush replied “That one’s not a fan”). He was driving a school bus at the time, and was later fired.

Here, a 37-year-old Canadian was flipping-off another driver when he rear-ended a car, suffering minor injuries and landing in the hospital.

Kim Roberts, the convicted felon who’s false testimony nearly ruined the live of the Duke Lacrosse players, recently flipped-off the WRAL TV cameras.

– This rude idiot was arrested after she “flipped off” an SUV carrying a sheriff Tuesday. Officers pulled her over and ran a routine check on her license plate. The check turned up outstanding warrants for the woman and her husband.

Where I’m from, “flipping the bird” is a fighting gesture. Fighting someone who flips you the bird should be justifiable, and in some cases rewarded . . . .

Learning statistics with cartoons!

Advanced statistics is the bane of many college students with mind-numbing equations and advanced Neutonian calculus that guarantees frequent brain cramps.

When we get into multivariate statistics, well, chi-square is just mind-boggling. We used to call it “Sadistics” . . .

When I taught college statistics I found that simple analogies and generalization greatly aided in learning, and I was thrilled to buy the great book “The Cartoon guide to statistics”, by Larry Gonick, a talented author and professor. This is legitimate college-level statistices, presented in an entertaining and fun way, with lots of analogies, simplification and generalization:

I needed a refresher in advanced multivariate statistics to fully appreciate Dr. Hamm’s new book “Oracle Data Mining”, (it’s been 20 years since grad school) and I highly recommend Dr. Gonick’s book for a refresher on advanced statistical modeling concepts.

I especially enjoyed the section on Baynesian model, a prerequisite for Dr, Hamm’s treatise on Oracle data mining models. Isn’t this illustration below great?

Larry is the author of several cartoon books (check out his catalog), and I just ordered “The cartoon guide to genetics”.