A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Bigger Brother

Two items caught my eye this weekend in The Observer. BT plans to block access to child porn sites and manufacturers of scanners are to implement changes to software to prevent copying of banknotes.

A pattern of tiny circles appear on the banknotes of 27 currencies (including sterling, the US dollar, the Swiss franc and the Euro).

The implication is interesting. As computing power increases personal freedom is reduced. If I could quantify it I could have the next Moore's law.

I remember early versions of products which restricted access to websites based on content; they slowed down access and had so many anomolies (although it's unlikely that the tourism industry in Scunthorpe suffered too much)that they were nearly unusable. Historically, too, firewall rulesets needed to be kept very simple so that throughput was not degraded. As this kind of pattern recognition capability comes within reach of consumer applications because of increases in computing power what's next? My vote goes to software in video/DVD players that recognises adverts so they can be skipped.

Now to that image of a £20 note. If you can't see the image highlighting where the circles appear, the it's probably because my PC is off or I don't have Hello running. Hello (don't read any further if you're in the Global Infrastructure team) is a kind of cross between Napster and IM for images except the images look like they're actually stored centrally with information about who's viewing them being sent back to the client machine.
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