Technology-Assisted Deception

This error was revealed and written up by Aaron Swartz.

When I told a friend about this project, she (let’s call her Alice) told me a story.

Alice lives a major city with fairly good cell coverage, except for a long tunnel that goes underground. Alice often gets calls from her mom. Alice likes her mom, of course, no problems there, but, as we all do, finds long phone calls with her a bit trying. So often when she’s on the phone with her mom, Alice will say “Oops, sorry mom, got to go into the tunnel now!” Even when she’s not going into the tunnel.

This is a lie that new technology makes possible. But it only makes it possible because there are known failures in the technology. If we only had old landline phones, you’d never be able to claim such a thing — landline phones don’t randomly stop working. And if we had perfect cell coverage, it similarly wouldn’t make sense. But since the technology only half-works, the unfinished space can be used for very human forms of deception.

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