Thursday, January 20, 2005

Out with Technology Illiteracy

HERE IS A LITTLE true story. In 1993, the cops in New Delhi solved one of India’s first computer-related crimes—they caught a man selling pirated software in those archaic 5.25-inch floppy disks. The establishment was overjoyed at the cops catching a “high-tech” criminal, and praise did not come at a premium. Later, the floppies were sent to the relevant authorities as evidence. The worthies stored them, and stored them well—they punched holes in the floppy disks and tied a thick green thread around them and placed the bundle in an office file.

When a friend, then a newspaper reporter who covered this case, related this story, I first rolled on the floor laughing, and then suddenly, everything fell into place—the Delhi cops, their knowledge about technology, and how they tackle “cyber crime”.’s country manager Avnish Bajaj, it could therefore be concluded, is not a prisoner of potbellied Delhi policemen; he is a prisoner of technology illiteracy, something amply displayed by law makers, law-enforcement authorities, and by the media.

An example of media’s technology illiteracy: a New Delhi newspaper recently said that the MMS-Clip-on- Sale case was solved by “cybersleuths” who are “technology savvy” because “they check their e-mail everyday.” Should we laugh? Or should we cry?

It is nobody’s case to call for an overhaul of the
country’s IT laws—what you and I should demand is a careful examination of law-enforcement.
Take this hypothetical case (based on the logic on
which Bajaj was arrested)—should you or your
employer be arrested because someone sent you a photo a naked person over e-mail, and that photo now resides on your company’s server or your hard drive?

It is a curious situation, and if Delhi’s cops had their way, a considerable portion of the capital’s population would be in jail. Chennai cops score almost equal marks in technology illiteracy. When asked how they will catch the person who circulated the video of a woman (allegedly a leading actress from Tamil Nadu) bathing, the investigating officer said, “It is easy to trace the criminal once we track the IP address.”

Simple question: What if the pervert used a cybercafé that does not keep records (and we know most cybercafés don’t) of their clients? What if the person used a friend’s PC, in which case the friend is done for, not the actual culprit?
White collar and sex-related Internet crimes are
now glaring at us with unprecedented ferocity. Sadly, however, our law-enforcement agencies depend on serendipity rather than knowledge to solve them.

We should shudder.

Sachin Kalbag Executive Editor

Content Courtesy:
Digit magazine, Jasubhai Digital Media,Mumbai.


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