“NY case underscores Wi-Fi privacy dangers”

… or perhaps merely the stupidity of treating dirty pictures as if they were national-security threats.

Well, you could say that. Or you could say that the story of a completely innocent man whose home was violently invaded at dawn, and who was personally thrown down the stairs, by federal agents, because someone else had used his wireless router to download kiddie-porn, underscores the stupidity of treating dirty pictures as if they were national-security threats. The drug war has given American law enforcement agencies a lot of bad habits. “Dynamic entry” raids are among the worst.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on ““NY case underscores Wi-Fi privacy dangers””

  1. If there’s anyone in the RBC viewership who hasn’t passworded his/her wireless router, this is a good occasion to do so. I’m unconvinced that we are doing the right thing in taking after child porn users as we do – not just the break down the doors stuff, but how we approach the problem. The justifications are: 1)protecting children from vile acts by pornographers, I’m for that. Also 2) there is an idea that men who look at these images are more likely to go out and capture a 7-year-old and rape and kill her.

    Around the teens of the last century, I think – and the quote is unfindable with Google because there is so much activity trying to sell me a used car! – one of the founders of General Motors pointed to used car sales as the greatest problem for manufacturers of new cars. There have been big problems for the California adult pornography industry from competition from free and cheap dissemination of old images. It seems to me likely we would actually protect today’s children from pornographers by easy availability of older images, which exist, and the harm done to children in their production is over. The next question is whether Jesse Timmendequas is more or less likely to abduct, rape, and kill Megan Kanka if he has had easy access to child pornography. I don’t know, although the ongoing decline in rapes of adult women co-incident with society being saturated with adult women pornography is suggestive. It’s at least worth thinking about.

  2. Well, we find ourselves in agreement. This sort of thing is indeed a consequence of the war on drugs. The consequences will continue until we declare peace. The choice is not between people being harmed, and people not being harmed. It’s important to realize the war on drugs is not reducing harms. It’s just redistributing them away from people whose actions logically lead to those harms, towards people who are behaving sensibly.

  3. I would like to hear professor Kleiman’s views on legal sanctions for consumers (not distributors) of child pornography. My parents are both vegans, so I tend to view issues of this nature through the lense of my debates with them on that subject. If we start with the premise that eating meat is morally wrong, clearly ordering a hamburger is wrong. Ordering the hamburger causes the business to order more from their distributor, and eventually down the line an extra cow is killed to fill a certain number of orders. What if, however, someone else orders a hamburger and is unable to finish it. This person then offers me the rest of the hamburger, and intends to throw it away if I don’t eat it myself. Is it morally wrong for me to eat the remainder? I have not contributed to demand in any way. Clearly paying a child pornographer or distributor in any way is wrong, because it rewards an evil activity. What if, however, an internet user is browsing an image forum and downloads images of child pornography? Is this in some way rewarding to the original rapist? Can we really accuse downloaders of supporting the rape of children?

  4. “we would actually protect today’s children from pornographers by easy availability of older images, which exist, and the harm done to children in their production is over”

    Dissemination of these images is itself arguably a harm to the children depicted in them; the law allows them to recover according to how widely the pix are viewed, apart from their production.

    Just sayin’.

  5. Anderson: ditto.

    I would also say that I very much question how “voluntary” much of the adult porn industry really is. I guess the amateur stuff is probably truly freely done. If I watched porn, that would be the only kind I could watch. Nothing wrong with that form of exhibitionism, that I can see.

    I guess I am old-fashioned. If someone really wants to do something, you don’t have to pay them.

  6. NCG, Econ 101: If someone wants something enough, they will pay for it.

    And since people are attached to stuff like, say, eating dinner and sleeping indoors, this causes them to do things like working at something they don’t like so that they can pay for something they do like. Which they pay for, which causes other people to … you get the drift. Sex is no different for the porn actors: They go to work, and some of them enjoy it more than others. There’s a reason it’s called “sex work”.

    And while you may rightly question how much of the mainline porn industry is “voluntary” , the answer is, the part which is the mainstream. It’s on the fringes that the shadow actors and actions come into play. If you buy a copy of “Debbie does Dallas, 13”, it’s unlikely that any of the performers are being strong-armed into it. Now, it’s true that pressuring is a grey area, but as far as I can tell, does not reach the criminal level. It’s more like whining piteously.

    Child porn is so different: it ranges from babies to 17-years-and-11-months. A lot of range to cover in one short phrase. So making a definitive statement other than “I think it’s wrong and should be prosecuted” is hard, because people shy from nuance.

    Oh, and Anderson? I would argue that just because the law allows for the collection of damages, it doesn’t follow that a real harm has occurred. Not the contra-positive: just because the law does NOT allow for damages, does not mean that harm has not occurred. Like breaking and entering on the part of the police.

  7. John: (btw, nice name choice) the “grey area” you speak of is indeed large, to many people but not to me, when it comes to sex. Paying for sex may not involve outright violence in many cases, but to me that doesn’t mean it’s “voluntary” in any meaningful sense.

    I agree this far though – my objections are based on my values. I don’t have a math proof for why it is wrong to pay for sex, but *not* wrong to sell it. Ie, in my world, there are no whores, there are only johns. Sorry but I play for the girls’ team. If someone doesn’t instinctively know why it’s wrong to buy sex, I can’t explain it and it’s probably too late for them anyway.

  8. See, NCG, right up to the ad hominem in the last line I was with you. It’s the scent of moral superiority that I object to. You do realize that many of us, including me, have fought for years for women’s rights (going back to the ERA 1, in my case) and still think it’s none of our business what an adult does in his or her bedroom, yes?

    In this case, it seems you use the word values, to mean, “that which I believe and cannot articulate why.” Which is fine with me, but isn’t an inherently morally superior position.

    Now, when you say you play for the girl’s team, I would agree: so do I. (And my name is a fortunate coincidence, and one my mother would be proud to stand by. It’s not like I picked it for this discussion, and I see now that you felt that I used it to make a point. No, sorry, it’s my given name.)

    Do you believe that buying a trinket or a Rolls Royce are inherently different acts? If so, why? And why would there be implied violence in a free transaction? That’s not to say that all such transactions are inherently free of coercion, but many are, in my experience (which doesn’t include paying for sex, just in case you were wondering. It includes interviewing 100’s of sex workers and homeless people.) And to say it’s OK to sell, but not to buy, well, count me among those who don’t get it. Can you explain without being condescending?

  9. So everything about this is absurd, but this bit struck me:

    “We know who you are! You downloaded thousands of images at 11:30 last night,” the man’s lawyer, Barry Covert, recounted the agents saying.

    ICE kicked down his door literally hours after the alleged crime? Do they have a SWAT team always at the ready for this sort of thing?

  10. “ICE kicked down his door literally hours after the alleged crime? Do they have a SWAT team always at the ready for this sort of thing?”

    Alas, yes, they do. And worse, it’s a bored SWAT team, always eager for some action.

    “Paying for sex may not involve outright violence in many cases, but to me that doesn’t mean it’s “voluntary” in any meaningful sense.”

    There are a lot of senses of “voluntary” that are meaningful, even if you don’t embrace them. I’d be wary of so restricting the sense of “voluntary” that virtually nothing we do qualifies.

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