I admit it. I’m a fan of NCIS. I’ve always like the show and get a kick out of the characters, particularly Abby (played by Pauley Perrette). She has an interesting background, including a master’s degree in Criminology (once, a direction I wanted to do) and truly seems to enjoy her career as an actress. I respect people who do act, whether on the big screen, little screen or stage. It takes a lot to stand in front of strangers, pretending to be something that you may or may not be. Sometimes that pretending can be contrary to who you are (Carroll O’Connor, more widely recognized as Archie Bunker, was far more liberal than even the “Meathead” was). But the one thing to remember is that every actor or actress is a person, a real live human being. Society has recently been overwhelming generations with more entertainment than ever before and the line between entertainment and life is blurring far too rapidly. As a geek, I’ve always found that sometimes the latest craze can be too much.
The Internet and computers were, to me, just tools for communication and creating community. I’ve never been big on the advertising bit but do understand that capitalism is what is driving education in the world today (rather than education for the sake of learning and expanding one’s mind). I suspect, however, it’s that drive to remove the human element from entertainment, that realization that this is a person too and not just the character they portray. I remember, as a kid, hearing stories of people going after Larry Hagman (well known as the badman J.R. in Dallas), claiming how mean and cruel he was. I suspect it is a testimony to how good of an actor he is but it is kind of frightening how society cannot make that break between what is real and what is show. This kind of over-attachment is just below the line of stalker.
And therein lies the issue. The Internet has made it easier for someone to “stalk” others. A friend of mine recently commented, when I mentioned I’d be making my twitter feed private, as to whether she’d be able to continue to “stalk me online” as a result. This is a good friend and she meant it entirely in a fun manner. Unfortunately, there are many out there who do stalk others and an openly feed like twitter can further continue that blurring of reality versus character. A twitter feed (basically, it’s the 140 character blips that people send out about life and such) can often seem one-sided. When we read a twitter sent to us, we forget that we can often be one of many who receive it. And if it’s public, everyone receives it. From a marketing and/or promoting perspective, this is a huge thing. It’s not surprising that the likes of CNN and others have been capitalizing on it. Heck, the whole thing between CNN and Ashton Kutcher was amusing but I failed to see the point. It doesn’t matter how many people follow you if they aren’t really listening to what you are saying.
That aside, however, the bigger challenge is actually know who is really saying it. As I write this blog, many who read it have never met me in person and only know me based on the pictures I post or the YouTube videos that end up here now and again. If I never did the YouTube vids (I’m due for another one soon, I think), I could have been anyone posting those things. Heck, I still could be. The Internet is fascinating in how it does tear down our identities and labels but it’s also scary. There is no way to verify who a person is. In computer security we often try to do multiple forms of authentication (that is, verifying that the person using a resource is who they say they are). Generally, it comes in one of 3 forms: what you know (username/password), what you have (physical ID like passport, card, etc.) or what you are (biometrics like retina scans, iris scans, fingerprints, facial recognition). Using multiples of these or all 3 (ideally) makes identification and verification more effective.
The big I internet will never be able to, at this point and in the near future, be able to provide true verification that the person talking is, in fact, that person. And, to make it worse, we have no way to prevent those that are stalking (in the bad sense) stop their behaviour. There is no police online, there are very limited stalking laws in general and most people scoff at it, claiming it’s the victim’s imagination. One of the things I had challenged in twitter was the ability of someone to reply who wasn’t being followed. Most people were against this (to the degree that some vehemently argued with me, saying that it was a form of censorship and a violation of their 1st Amendment rights). Well, it’s not a violation. That law applies to the government violating your right to speak out, not a private firm. It’s their servers and if they feel there is a need, then they have the right to do so. Certainly object to them if it displeases you. When I mentioned how this might be because of stalkers and spammers, they scoffed saying that those people can be easily blocked. This comment highlights someone who has never experienced (and I hope they never do) what it’s like. There is a fear to knowing that someone who has never been or formerly was a part of your life follows you this excessively. It’s downright scary.
Very few organizations seem to address this properly or fully. They do not consider that they may be helping to feed this and encourage this by not adding in some verifications about who a person is and are they who they claim to be. Because of this lack of verification, no court order can be put in place to prevent someone from following another or pretending to be that other. Most “stalkers” are not dangerous but now and again, there is one. And it only takes one. So how does this all tie in with Pauley Perrette? Well, over the weekend I watched her YouTube video (see below) about Twitter and the fact that she cannot have an internet presence. While not a violation of her 1st Amendment it is a violation of her right to enjoy life, liberty and happiness to allow someone to so control you that you cannot be creative, if you wanted to, on a global basis. It is another form of denying someone their right to their own identity, whatever that may be.