If you’ve heard about this week’s court order (ArsTechnica plain-English breakdown here) in the Viacom-YouTube lawsuit, you probably already know it makes a parody of privacy. It clearly states for the world that corporate IP such as search algorithms should be held in the utmost confidence. However, concerns over the revealing of personal information such as location, login names, and video viewing history are really just “speculative.” (This despite personal video usage history being explicitly protected by U.S. law.)
Now I may be a cockeyed optimist, but I don`t think Judge Louis Stanton had any nefarious intentions in making this ruling. I think Stanton is just the latest high-profile example of a government representative exercising government power over information technology without understanding how IT works. (Katie blogged about this same problem back here.)
The EFF`s Kurt Opsahl picks apart the court order in a nice blog post that really calls into question whether Judge Stanton understands IP addresses, user IDs, video technologies of the 21st century, and data protection legislation. The Washington Post`s Michael Arrington points out that Stanton graduated from law school over 50 years ago, so his ignorance in matters tech should not be shocking.
We have a similar problem with legislators. Even our very well-intentioned Bill C-552, aka the Canadian Net Neutrality Bill, has shortcomings that I can only assume are the result of MP Angus not being quite well informed enough. Yes, C-552 is on the right track, but…it could be better with a little more information and consultation with IT-literate stakeholders.
Of course, our largest Canadian example, hanging directly over our heads at the moment is Copyright Bill C-61, aka the Canadian DMCA. Anyone who listens to the CBC’s Search Engine knows that Industry Minister Jim Prentice (who has already been embarrassed by a wikipedia bio editing blooper) doesn’t have a clue (podcast here) about what the copyright bill really means. (Oddly, that show ended up being the last ever for Search Engine.) Talk about an IT-illiterate making telecom policy; sheesh. It would be funny if the stakes weren`t so high.
C-61 is actually a prime example of the dangers of tech-illiterate government, because it is the type of legislation that, if passed, will likely spawn lawsuits similar to the Viacom-YouTube in Canadian courts. Which can then be presided over by judges who, in turn, do not understand the way technology works.
IT-ignorant lawmakers make technology laws, and IT-ignorant judges interpret those laws when large corporations battle against scary new paradigms or information dissemination…it`s almost enough to make one become a luddite, merely in order to protect oneself.
Then, of course, one might be qualified for a technology-related government appointment.