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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #38: January 29, 2002

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society,
Volume 1, Number 4, Winter 1998


The New Spectacle of Crime
By Gareth Palmer
Over the past twenty years television has undergone radical changes in its technological base and its economic infrastructure. As one of the central genres of television, documentary has made important contributions to the public sphere. However, it is experiencing the changes to television as a threat to its ability to signify the real and function as a public service. This paper looks at the new breed of documentaries on crime as a response to this crisis. British and American programmes are discussed including Cops, LAPD, Crimewatch UK and Crimebeat. These documentaries are successful brands whose popularity is part of the evolving debate on programme quality, now informed by the logic of the market. In the analysis particular attention is paid to the ways in which new technologies are demonstrated which excite a double measure of fear and comfort in the citizen who is defined as law-abiding and a good consumer. Central to this analysis are the performances of the police, who are seen both as individuals reaching out to the community and as agents of powerful, potentially dehumanizing technologies. In these documentaries the city is depicted as a dark and dangerous place, tipping into chaos only to be returned to order by the work of the police. These programmes explicitly request the cooperation of the public to extend the work of policing the community. Signs of resistance are considered as evidence that individuals can still evolve strategies which resist those who seek to bind them to the law. We conclude by discussing the need to understand such programmes as important depictions of the fluid movement of power.

Criminality on the electronic Frontier: Corporality and the judicial construction of the hacker
By Douglas Thomas
In this essay, I examine the representation of hackers in popular and, most important, judicial discourse to explore how hackers are defined both popularly and legally in terms of criminality. In tracing out the discourse of computer crime, I argue that discourse about hackers criminality is focussed on issues of the body, addiction and performance.The domain of hackers is generally considered a virtual space, a space without bodies. The technology of punishment, however, has it roots firmly established in mechanisms that relate almost exclusively to the body. Even surveillance, which takes the body and the visual as its target is problematized by the notion of virtual space. As a result, hackers, as noncorporeal criminals, have corporeality juridically forced upon them. Crimes, such as trespassing, which occur in virtual space need to be documented in the physical world and attached to bodies. Attaching these crimes to the hackers bodies does two things: first, it focuses on acts of possession rather than performance, and, second, it focuses attention on the hacker's body through metaphors of hunting and violence. This essay illustrates the difficulty that the legal system has in the representation of hackers as criminals. Accordingly, it is the possession of secrets (such as passwords) that law prohibits, not the actual use of them. As a result, criminality becomes defined by possession, rather than action. There are striking parallels between the discourse of computer crimes and those of drugs. Hackers are often seen as addicts, unable to control their compulsions, virtual beings who sacrifice their bodies to the drug of technology. The physical connection to technology itself is seen as the source of their criminality, as a performance of addiction, and courts have gone as far as banning hackers from touching computers, using touch-tone phones, or even being in the same room as a modem.

Hackers: Cyberpunks or Microserfs?
By Paul A. Taylor
Hackers and rapid technological change produce similar responses: they simultaneously produce feelings of fear and fascination. This paper explores how ambivalence to technology in general is mirrored in both fictional and nonfictional accounts of hacking and how such representations reflect our concerns about the best way to control technological ingenuity in a hi-tech age. William Gibson's Neuromancer and Douglas Coupland's Microserfs are used as the main examples of fictional portrayals of hacking and it is argued that the imaginative licence exhibited by their authors ultimately draws upon contemporary concerns over the role technology plays in modern life. The key underlying theme behind both fictional and nonfictional accounts of hacking is shown to be the issue of technological control. Hackers exhibit technological virtuosity in an age when rapid change and its accompanying confusion place such mastery at a premium. They are portrayed as controllers of technology and yet on other occasions (and sometimes simultaneously) they are depicted as being controlled by the technology they use. Examples are provided of how such virtuosity is often closely associated with an unhealthy level of technological intimacy. This leads to the charge that hackers have become somewhat dehumanised by their expertise. The previous paper by Douglas Thomas illustrates the extent to which the various immaterial concepts associated with hacking are often socially contested and subsequently grounded with reference to physical terms. This paper continues this theme by showing how the allegedly dehumanising aspects of hacking are frequently described with recourse to body-based images of dependency and physical invasion. The paper concludes that for the most beneficial future technological progress, society will need to steer hackers through a middle-path between the anarchic and drone-like extremes described by Gibson's and Coupland's disturbing visions.

Privacy and Security at Risk in the Global Information Society
By Simone Fischer-Hobner
In the global information society, individual privacy is seriously endangered. An increasing amount of personal data is being transferred around the world, and communication data of users could be easily traced and used to create individual communication using new information infrastructures. With contemporary network technologies, it is difficult to protect personal data adequately. The Internet, as an important contemporary information highway, is missing essential features of reliability, functionality, confidentiality and integrity, and is threatened by various security attacks. This paper discusses privacy and security risks in the global information society. It also compares and critically analyses the approaches to privacy protection of different information infrastructure programmes. The difficulties for a common harmonised legal approach to privacy protection, due to cultural differences, are analysed. Finally, possibilities for designing information infrastructures adequate under social and privacy requirements (in particular privacy-enhancing technologies) are discussed.

Data Protection of Law Offenders
By Peter Blume
The article discusses how processing of data related to people who have been convicted, charged or suspected in connection with a crime is regulated. After presenting some of the basic assumptions of data protection, different aspects of Danish law are first analysed. These include conditions of processing both in the public and the private sector, the extent of processing (especially in the Central Criminal Register), rules on security and on access to criminal records. Finally the question of a DNA register is discussed. Next the Council of Europe Police Data Recommendation and Directive 95/46 EC are described. Furthermore, the rules of the Schengen and the Europol Conventions are analysed. It is concluded that the privacy of criminals in many ways is endangered, but that it is still possible to envisage sound data protection combined with necessary crime prevention.

Keeping Secrets: International developments to protect undisclosed business information and trade secrets
By Margaret Jackson
Before 1994, there was not a common international approach to the protection of undisclosed business information and trade secrets. In a number of countries, particularly in Asia, there had even been no recognition or concept of a legal protection for information. However, three different approaches to the protection of business information had evolved - in the British Commonwealth, in Continental Europe and in the United States - and these approaches had influenced the development of laws in a number of other countries. Such legal protection, however, operated only at a national, rather than an international, level. The internationalisation of business and the growth in trans-border flows of data meant that information had become an international commodity and needed an international solution to its increasing vulnerability. This article identifies and analyses how international developments are leading to changes to the traditional ways in which business information has been protected by the law and examines what these changes may be. The effects of three international instruments are explored - the 1992 OECD Guidelines for the Security of Information Systems, the 1994 Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), a part of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and the 1997 OECD Guidelines for Cryptography Policy.

Information Warfare and sub-state actors: an organisational approach
By Andrew Rathmell
Information Warfare is perceived as an increasing threat by armed forces, governments and corporations alike. There is a perception that sub-state groups pose a particular problem because they may find it easier than states to exploit Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to leverage limited resources into disproportionate political, economic or military gains. Since the mid-1990s, therefore, Western governments have framed their Information assurance polices as defences against 'cyberterrorism'.However, it is proving difficult for states and corporations to assess the IW threat from sub-state groups. Existing approaches that focus on the capabilities of potentially hostile actors address only part of the problem. Moreover, they provide only a steady state assessment of the threat. In a dynamic and fluid security environment characterised by rapid and nonlinear change, such approaches are unable to provide the predictive intelligence necessary for long-term security planning. This article proposes an organisational analysis approach that may be better able to provide predictive warnings of threats from sub-state groups. The article argues that organisational culture and organizational structure are a primary locus of capability for IW. Organisational culture is a determinant of how likely a group is to adopt innovative strategies such as IW. Organisational structure is a determinant of how effective a group may be at exploiting ICT and IW. The article argues that measurement of these characteristics can provide predictive indicators of emerging IW threats.

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