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Wednesday, 18 May 2011 21:51

QLD Police: a TV is not a Facebook pic!


Today's assertion by a Queensland Police representative that receiving a (potentially) ill-gotten image derived from Facebook is akin to receiving a stolen TV completely beggars belief.  Queensland Police, you're wanted on the phone, it's the 21st Century calling.

Australian press has covered the Ben Grubb 'incident' in great detail today, so a recap probably isn't necessary.  For any reader not familiar, checked the linked articles, the original piece and Grubb's own account then come back quickly.

OK, here we go.

First we have the "he was arrested," "no he wasn't" "yes he was" debacle played out by the Queensland Police Media Unit's twitter account.  For the record, Grubb WAS arrested but it would seem only for the purposes of formalising the interaction with him.  At the time.

Then we have this morning's media conference, hosted by Detective Superintendent Brian Hay who offered an interesting analogy to describe why Grubb became a person of interest.

"Someone breaks into your house and they steal a TV and they give that TV to you and you know that TV is stolen"

"The reality is the online environment is now an extension of our real community and if we go into that environment we have responsibilities to behave in a certain way."

Hay added, "I think the cyber environment represents the greatest challenge to law enforcement in the history of policing."

This is astonishing.

For such a senior policeman, the ignorance is simply breathtaking.  Firstly, any activity that takes a copy of something cannot ever be called theft and any analogy that attempts to make such a comparison is totally bogus.

However, in the interests of ridicule, let's take this a little further. 

It would seem that the essence of Detective Superintendent Hay's argument is that mis-typing a URL (which is the essence of the hack, as outlined in the original article) is already a crime on the basis that you might have done it intentionally in order to bypass some kind of security.  One might compare that to the famous toll gate in the movie "Blazing Saddles" where everyone lines up to pay the toll - at an unfenced stand-alone gate in the middle of the prairie.

Another step along the ridicule path gets us to the interesting possibility that Queensland Police have devised a method of cloning televisions.  How else can we explain the good Detective Superintendent's assertion that Grubb's receipt of one of Heinrich's 'borrowed' Facebook images can be equated with the theft of a TV?

Now for a giant stride down the path of derision.  Surely, if Grubb was guilty of some (any!) law that asserted the receipt of an Internet-derived image was wrong, surely that means that every single person who read his article before Fairfax removed the images was equally guilty; after-all we ALL have the image in our cache.  Do they own enough pairs of handcuffs?

This mythical TV set is just like a Christmas present of a female kitten, "it's the gift that keeps on giving."



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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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