Sunday, March 28, 2010

Next they’ll examine how you walk to determine if you’re an omnisexual extraterrestrial

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at science

Here’s yet another report on some “scientific research” that just can’t possibly go wrong:

Researchers believe technology could be used to determine a computer typist's age, sex and culture within 10 keystrokes by monitoring their speed and rhythm.


Professor Roy Maxion, associate professor at Newcastle University, has been carrying out the research in America.

Former Northumbria Police detective chief inspector Phil Butler believes the technology could be useful in tracking down online fraudsters and paedophiles.

Mr Butler, who heads Newcastle University's Cybercrime and Computer Security department, said: ''Roy's research has the potential to be a fantastic tool to aid intelligence gathering for crime fighting agencies, in particular serious and organised crime and for those tracking down paedophiles.

''If children are talking to each other on Windows Live or MSN Messenger, we are looking at ways of providing the chat room moderators with the technology to be able to see whether an adult is on there by the way they type.''

This is nothing more than pseudoscientific nonsense. The only way you can reasonably tell something about someone over an online discussion is through what they type, not how they type it. There are so many things that influence the manner in which someone uses a keyboard (or other typing instruments, such as a cellphone’s keypad) that any attempt to try and use a person’s typing speed and efficiency as a measure of their potential for being a pedophile is nothing more than a complete and dangerous exercise in futility. The mitigating factors are virtually unfathomable: anything from environmental factors (comfort, position, temperature, etc.) to psychological factors (fatigue, stress, emotions, etc.), physical factors (diseases or injuries that can affect one’s typing abilities), and not to mention the quality and/or nature of the typing equipment itself (the rigidity and sensitivity of keys, even any defects or damage an instrument has), and so on. And even after all of this, connection speed itself could determine everything; any noise in the lines could potentially skew readings into complete incoherence.

Sexual predators, especially those targeting youths over the Internet, are dangerous and loathsome and must be stopped whenever they can be. That much is indisputable. But we need to use techniques and tools that are reliable and objective, not something as intrinsically unreliable and subjective as a person’s typing mannerisms. Not only is this absolute rubbish, but it’s also incredibly reckless and downright dangerous, in terms of how badly even the slightest of misinterpretations or mistakes could result for any innocent victims who could get falsely targeted. There are plenty of effective methods for catching online predators. Analyzing something as inherently vague and subjective as how you type on a keyboard is not one of them.

(via The Agitator)