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When I think about RedZone, this comedy sketch featuring Rosanna Arquette and Steve Guttenberg (from Amazon Women on the Moon -1987) comes immediately to mind.

Guttenberg’s character’s history has been collected and shared, which provides him no opportunity to treat others badly, but also denies him any possible opportunity to reform or to demonstrate improvement. Once marked, he is marked for life. He is tried and convicted in-absentia and without due process. His sentence is perpetual punishment. A form of living exile, where he is unable to make amends or receive parole.

Is the information against him accurate? The implication of the sketch is that it is; and that is a part of the comedy in this sketch, because under more genuine circumstances it probably would not be.

One of the key principles of justice is the notion of absolution; that the convicted person receives an appropriate sentence, serves that sentence and – having done so – their transgression is subsequently overlooked. It’s done. Go and sin no more.

Let’s not forget Nelson Mandela, imprisoned for 18 years for coordinating bombings, sabotage and terrorism. On his release, he publicly dedicated himself to peace, and later served as President of South Africa. People do change. Sometimes it is for the better, and justice recognises that.

Evidence also sometimes points the wrong way, and innocent people sometimes get caught in the gears too. For that reason (and a number of others, as well), another principle of justice is one of least-harm.

Of course, the world – and people, for what is the world if it is not people? – constitutes a much more complex situation, and our implementations of justice are in flux, sometimes in error, and frequently rebalanced. We’ve only been working on the implementation of justice for a few millennia, and I think it is safe to say that we don’t have it right yet.

And then we get into data-collection and disbursement.

Your credit card company monitors your purchases, and the locations where your credit card information is used. That information is gathered and processed and then used to attempt to identify and defeat fraudulent usage. However, at no time does the company make any of that information available to its merchants.

Indeed, most businesses that you deal with can (and do!) collect information about purchasers and purchases. For their own use; some stores send gift- and discount-vouchers out on your birthday, there’s demographic data that is useful for determining what to stock, and so on.

That information- or the conclusions drawn from it – is not shared with other people, businesses or organisations (except as provided for by law) if, for no other reason, than there is usually legislation in place which limit their ability to lawfully do so. There are many reasons for that. Nobody necessarily wants their book or movie purchases shared with their local political or religious groups.

Also – the world being what it is – there’s always the possibility of the information simply being inaccurate. How many organisations can’t get your name right on a letter or a bill, even though you’ve been a customer for years? How many cannot seem to handle a simple change-of-address? How many dead people still get letters in the post? A number of service companies (of whom I have been a customer for over a decade) often contact me to sell me a service that I am already receiving from them.

Given the sheer amount of inaccuracy in data about me held by businesses that I personally deal with, I’m really very glad that there are strict limitations on the sharing of that data with others. Most of them can’t even get my name right.

RedZone seems to me – in my personal opinion – to combine the worst aspects of all of the above; incomplete and inaccurate data, from which are drawn conclusions that are then shared in order to apply a sentence (applied rightly or wrongly) to a user-account, without any apparent hope of correction, remission or absolution.

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