21 August 2010

ACAT decision upheld

In April this blog noted the decision by the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal in Kennedy v Commissioner for ACT Revenue [2010] ACAT 17, a dispute that involved what the Tribunal found were unpersuasive arguments about the inability of the ACT government to impose charges on residential property lease.

Mr Kennedy, holder of a Masters law degree, was employed by the Commissioner for ACT Revenue at the time of the contentious transactions.

The decision by the Tribunal has now been upheld, in Kurt Alim Kennedy & Commissioner For ACT Revenue (Administrative Review) [2010] ACAT 55.

A diminished reputation?

Justice Peter McClellan of the NSW Supreme Court has awarded former terror suspect Mamdouh Habib $5,000 after Habib won an appeal - Habib v Nationwide News Pty Ltd [2010] NSWCA 34 - in a defamation case against the publisher of the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

The initial case, in 2008, concerned claims made by the former Guantanamo Bay inmate about torture when he was detained.

The award may give Habib little comfort, as costs have yet to be determined and the mass media have featured comments such as -
although [Habib] established he was defamed, [the Court] is not persuaded that Mamdouh Habib's reputation is significantly damaged.

The Judge said "with respect to the damage to his reputation, in my judgement it is relevant that he falsely denied supporting Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman.

"That amounts to a finding that the plaintiff was prepared to tell an untruth to the Australian public in relation to his support for a terrorist and very significantly diminishes his reputation.

"For that reason, although the plaintiff succeeded in establishing that the published article defamed him, when it said that he made multiple false claims I am not persuaded that his reputation was thereby significantly damaged."

Kermode and Judt

A nice tribute to Frank Kermode by Verlyn Klinkenborg as an Op Ed in today's NY Times -
I wanted to write about Kermode because I admired him. In my years in academia, I had watched the study of literature go down any number of rabbit holes — chasing after theory and ideology and system. The very point of reading and talking about what we read seemed to have been lost in a kind of strangulating self-seriousness and alienation. That's where Kermode came in.

He was drawn to the entanglements of the text and its rational mysteries rather than some scaffold of theory. In his many books and essays, he protected the reader's freedom to be interested in whatever was interesting. That meant writing a prose that was never wholly academic and over the years became more and more open to the intersection of literature and the lives we're actually living. ....

In a review published in 2001, Kermode — a lifelong Shakespearean — sums up one of the reasons he loved Shakespeare: "To be able to devote one's life to art without forgetting that art is frivolous is a tremendous achievement of personal character". That was Kermode's achievement, too.
And from Timothy Garton Ash, in the NYRB blog, on Tony Judt -
The poet Paul Celan said of his native Czernowitz that it was a place where people and books used to live. Tony Judt was a man for whom books lived, as well as people. His mind, like his apartment on Washington Square, was full of books — and they walked with him, arguing, to the very end.

Critical though he was of French intellectuals, he shared with them a conviction that ideas matter. Being English, he thought facts matter too. As a historian, one of his most distinctive achievements was to integrate the intellectual and political history of twentieth-century Europe—revealing the multiple, sometimes unintended interactions over time of ideas and realities, thoughts and deeds, books and people.

20 August 2010

Number crunching

After getting rid of my lecture slides on the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) and new competition & consumer protection regime I'm reading Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts: The Politics of Numbers in Global Crime and Conflict (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2010) edited by Peter Andreas & Kelly Greenhill, The Just City (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2010) and The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton: Princeton University Press 2010) by Noah Feldman. Nothing if not eclectic, as Robert Hughes might say, although there is a common thread of concern for human rights and a commitment to intellectual rigour that I find appealing.

Andreas & Greenhill, foreshadowed recently in this blog, is a collection of scholarly essays on problematical data collection/interpretation in relation to law enforcement and policymaking. It is particularly impressive for its discussion of challenges - and abuses by politicians, officials, journalists and scholars - regarding human trafficking data and death tolls in crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Darfur. The book also contains an insightful essay by Sue Eckert & Thomas Biersteker on the measurement, or mismeasurement, of 'success' in countering terrorism. The book might usefully be a prescribed text in human rights, criminology and terrorism courses.

Fainstein, which I'm reading at the request of an urban policy friend - can't have too many friends, four-legged or otherwise, who are unfamiliar with LexisNexis and know not to ask how my Cases & Materials chapters are coming along - draws on Rawls and Nussbaum in articulating an approach to justice and urban development in postmodern cities, suggesting that we can base credible policy on three concepts of diversity, democracy and equity.

Feldman looks at the history of shari'a law, founding his analysis on an engagement with religious, historical and sociological literature (with judicious comments for example regarding Weber) and suggesting that the idea of a 'just legal system, one that administers the law fairly' is an understandable goal in a region dominated by kleptocratic, incompetent and often brutal oligarchies.

On Monday, after more marking, it is faculty 'show & tell' day ... I'll be presenting a paper (albeit a decaf lite version of a paper) on 'Technological Identity Gothic', critiquing 'magical unrealism' in statements from UK and Indian politicians and officials (eg here) regarding the national identity card regimes in those nations.

Tony Abbott has come to my rescue, with the announcement that the Coalition, if it wins tomorrow's election, will introduce a virtual national identity card. Apparently we cannot have too many national signifiers, with some form of welfare card to join the ubiquitous Tax File Number and Medicare Number in 'naming and claiming' most of the population. If that is the case the Coalition might care to study the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, highlighted yesterday, regarding a statutory tort of breach of privacy. Bring the new number - or a bit of magic plastic - on, but embed that device within a coherent, positive and properly-enforced national privacy framework.

19 August 2010

a Victorian tort of privacy?

The Victorian Attorney-General has tabled the state Law Reform Commission's 180 page Surveillance in Public Places: Final Report [PDF].

The report responds to the growing use and sophistication of surveillance technologies. It provides recommendations to "modernise Victorian surveillance laws and promote the responsible use of surveillance devices in public places". Those recomendations include -
* clarifying, modernising and strengthening the Surveillance Devices Act 1999, including a new offence dealing with improper use of a surveillance device, such as 'happy slapping'

* prohibiting surveillance in public toilets and change rooms

* prohibiting a person recording an activity or conversation which they are part of without the consent of the other parties

* broadening the role of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner to include regulation of public place surveillance

* creating two new causes of action (the right to sue) dealing with serious invasions of privacy.
The report completes a two-stage inquiry into the widespread use of privacy-invasive technologies. The Commission's Workplace Privacy: Final Report was the first stage and proposed the creation of workplace privacy legislation to regulate potentially privacy-invasive acts and practices in the workplace. The Commission had been requested to -
In light of the widespread use of surveillance and other privacy-invasive technologies in workplaces and places of public resort, and the potential benefits and risks posed by these technologies, inquire into and report progressively upon

a. whether legislative or other reforms should be made to ensure that workers’ privacy, including that of employees, independent contractors, outworkers and volunteers, is appropriately protected in Victoria. In the course of this inquiry, the Commission should consider activities such as
• surveillance and monitoring of workers’ communications;
• surveillance of workers by current and emerging technologies, including the use of video and audio devices on the employers’ premises or in other places;
• physical and psychological testing of workers, including drug and alcohol testing, medical testing and honesty testing;
• searching of workers and their possessions;
• collecting, using or disclosing personal information in workers’ records.
b. whether legislative or other measures are necessary to ensure that there is appropriate control of surveillance, including current and emerging methods of surveillance.
As part of that examination, the Commission was to consider whether any regulatory models in relation to surveillance of workers, could be applied in other surveillance contexts such as surveillance in public places to provide for a uniform approach to the regulation of surveillance.

In its new report the Commission draws on the Victorian Charter framework to identify six public place surveillance principles that would be enshrined in legislation and provide guidance regarding "responsible use of public place surveillance".

The principles would balance competing interests, as follows.
1. People are entitled to a reasonable expectation of privacy when in public places.
2. Users of surveillance devices in public places should act responsibly and consider the reasonable expectations of privacy of individuals.
3. Users of surveillance devices in public places should take reasonable steps to inform people of the use of those devices.
4. Public place surveillance should be for a legitimate purpose related to the activities of the organisation conducting it.
5. Public place surveillance should be proportional to its legitimate purpose.
6. Reasonable steps should be taken to protect information gathered through public place surveillance from misuse or inappropriate disclosure.
The report recommends establishment of an independent regulator, primarily to promote responsible use of surveillance in public places by providing practical guidance to surveillance users, to provide the public with information about rights, and to keep the government and the people of Victoria fully informed of rapidly changing technology. That would involve a "range of functions and powers necessary for the regulator to fulfil these tasks, bearing in mind that the least restrictive regulatory methods are desirable".

The Commission acknowledges that "guidance alone cannot protect people from some practices that seriously affect their privacy", therefore suggesting changes to clarify, modernise and strengthen the Surveillance Devices Act that prohibits the use of covert surveillance devices in private places, while also allowing law enforcement use of surveillance with a warrant. The proposed amendment of definitions reflects contemporary practice, for example expressly prohibiting surveillance in toilets and change rooms. The Commission also recommends introduction of a prohibition on participant monitoring (where a person records an activity or conversation to which they are a party without the consent of other parties), something that is currently allowed under the Act.

The Commission recommends introduction of a new offence to "prohibit highly offensive uses of surveillance devices, regardless of where the surveillance occurs", designed to "send a clear message to the community that various forms of behaviour are unacceptable, including, for example, filming violence for entertainment (happy slapping). Using surveillance to intimidate or prevent people from doing something they are otherwise lawfully entitled to do, like attending an abortion clinic or drug treatment centre, would also be covered by the offence. A civil penalty regime would also apply to existing criminal offences in the SDA, providing for greater flexibility in enforcement by allowing a surveillance regulator to act on the less serious matters that come to attention without referring the matter to Victoria Police for criminal prosecution.

A significant recommendation is the call for a statutory tort of privacy. The report indicates that
The commission believes that individual Victorians should be able to take civil action in response to serious invasions of privacy by the use of surveillance in a public place.

At present, no Australian jurisdiction has enacted a statutory cause of action for invasion of privacy, and no appellate court has acknowledged the existence of a common law tort of invasion of privacy. It is open to both the High Court and the Victorian Court of Appeal to recognise a common law tort of invasion of privacy in the absence of any legislative action. However, developments in other common law countries, most notably the UK and New Zealand, suggest it will take a long time before a reasonably clear body of law emerges. Legislation would provide greater clarity and certainty within a more acceptable timeframe. The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) (the Charter) is a useful catalyst for legislative action because 'privacy' is one of the human rights that parliament specifically seeks to protect and promote under the Charter.

The Commission recommends the introduction of two statutory causes of action for serious invasions of privacy: the first dealing with misuse of private information, the second with intrusion upon seclusion.

Although our focus is an appropriate legal response to the misuse of surveillance in public places, these new causes of action would not necessarily be limited to conduct that occurred in a public place or that involved the use of a surveillance device.

18 August 2010

Football Haiku

Football! Football! "Who'da thunk it", as the Grand Old Man of Chateau Stewart is wont to say.

I'm making an exception to the 'football-free blog' policy after being pointed to Football Haiku (alas, not from Geelong) by legal scholar and future SC Derridian.

17 August 2010

A Taxonomy of SNS

Security analyst Bruce Schneier offers a taxonomy of social networking data, commenting that
As we continue our conversations about what sorts of fundamental rights people have with respect to their data, and more countries contemplate regulation on social networking sites and user data, it will be important to keep this taxonomy in mind. The sorts of things that would be suitable for one type of data might be completely unworkable and inappropriate for another.
His taxonomy is as follows -
1. Service data is the data you give to a social networking site in order to use it. Such data might include your legal name, your age, and your credit-card number.

2. Disclosed data is what you post on your own pages: blog entries, photographs, messages, comments, and so on.

3. Entrusted data is what you post on other people's pages. It's basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don't have control over the data once you post it -- another user does.

4. Incidental data is what other people post about you: a paragraph about you that someone else writes, a picture of you that someone else takes and posts. Again, it's basically the same stuff as disclosed data, but the difference is that you don't have control over it, and you didn't create it in the first place.

5. Behavioral data is data the site collects about your habits by recording what you do and who you do it with. It might include games you play, topics you write about, news articles you access (and what that says about your political leanings), and so on.

6. Derived data is data about you that is derived from all the other data. For example, if 80 percent of your friends self-identify as gay, you're likely gay yourself.
Schneier goes on to comment that -
There are other ways to look at user data. Some of it you give to the social networking site in confidence, expecting the site to safeguard the data. Some of it you publish openly and others use it to find you. And some of it you share only within an enumerated circle of other users. At the receiving end, social networking sites can monetize all of it: generally by selling targeted advertising.

Different social networking sites give users different rights for each data type. Some are always private, some can be made private, and some are always public. Some can be edited or deleted -- I know one site that allows entrusted data to be edited or deleted within a 24-hour period -- and some cannot. Some can be viewed and some cannot.

It's also clear that users should have different rights with respect to each data type. We should be allowed to export, change, and delete disclosed data, even if the social networking sites don't want us to. It's less clear what rights we have for entrusted data -- and far less clear for incidental data. If you post pictures from a party with me in them, can I demand you remove those pictures -- or at least blur out my face? (Go look up the conviction of three Google executives in Italian court over a YouTube video.) And what about behavioral data? It's frequently a critical part of a social networking site's business model. We often don't mind if a site uses it to target advertisements, but are less sanguine when it sells data to third parties.

16 August 2010

Free haircuts for all

One of my friends has been making merry with newspaper photos of 'gang members', typically with impressive beards and/or the 'bald as a bandicoot' haircut affected by your author. On reading the latest announcement in The War on Crime (or merely on 'Gangs' or 'Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs'), this time from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, I wondered whether someone will suggest that we solve the OMG problem by simply offering free trims to the dangerous desperadoes.

Mr Abbott is reported as promising to invest $10 million on headquarters for his Anti Gang Squad, to be built in Western Sydney (a location where there are marginal voters even if there aren't that many OMG members ... who might of course get on their steeds of steel - sorry, I'm channelling Barnaby Joyce - and move to another location).
While visiting small businesses in the marginal seat of Greenway, he said the west is an appropriate place for the national headquarters of a gang-fighting squad.

He pledged $10 million to set up the headquarters.

"Sydney has historically been the gang crime capital of Australia," he said.

"Gang crime certainly is not confined to Sydney. We've seen recent evidence of gang crime in Melbourne. Gang crime is obviously very serious in Adelaide.

"But the bikie gangs in particular have long been headquartered in Sydney and that's why western Sydney is an appropriate place for our national violent gang squad."
Is gang crime so very obviously very serious in Adelaide? Do we indeed need new laws and new squads, with or without expensive real estate among the Westies?

My cynicism may be forgiven when the same ABC report notes that -
His western Sydney blitz also included an announcement of $5 million to upgrade local soccer fields in the marginal electorate of Lindsay.
Throw in an extra million and we can lease a Delilah, a recording of Tom Jones, a few shearers and a Kojak lollypop or two to make the crime go away.

The ABC notes Mr Abbott's injunction: "And I say to the people of western Sydney, don't be conned again." The spirit of leadership in an election that has been largely devoid of substantive policies was demonstrated in the report that -
Mr Abbott's day was scripted and tightly controlled, so much so that he cancelled a peak-hour train ride when a bus load of young Labor members also turned up
... a cancellation redolent of complaints by South Australian ALP Attorney-General Atkinson - responsible for that state's problematical anti-OMG statute - that he was being assailed by big bad computer gamers. As Edmund Wilson said in a cogent review of Tolkien, "ooh, those awful orcs", or spotty emos in black tshirts fretting about World of Warcraft and similar online childminding mechanisms. John Curtin, Bob Menzies, Paul Hasluck or Billy Hughes might have been somewhat braver.


A new paper by Juliet Lodge on 'Quantum Surveillance and 'Shared Secrets': A Biometric Step Too Far?' [PDF] comments that -
Biometrics are a feature of communication technologies (ICTs). Their disproportionate use and the lax and arbitrary way in which they are defined and implemented endangers values, norms and practices central to accepted conceptions in the EU27 of transparency, data protection and data privacy. Concern over the indiscriminate and growing use of biometrics for increasingly mundane and imprecise purposes results in a breach of the earlier intention to ensure their proportionate deployment based on the principle of necessity. Deviation from this is now justified by reference to loose arguments about the alleged 'certainty' that biometric identifiers bring to cutting risk, and so enhancing 'security', however that is defined.
The paper was presented at the CEPS 'Liberty & Security in Europe' event last month. It builds on Lodge's 2006 LIBE paper on biometrics.

She argues that -
There are at least five underlying problems in over-optimistic and unwarranted 'trust' in the technologies (ICTs). The first problem is that reliance on assumed technological 'certainty'’ encourages groupthink and reliance on automated decision-making that exacerbate arbitrariness, and risks of inequality, discrimination and disregard for human dignity. The second is that what I call 'quantum surveillance' is inevitable given the tendency to interpret all manner of things – behaviour, movement, relations, associational links and emotion, as a 'biometric'. The third is that the transformational impact of ICTs on society and governance proceeds without sufficient ethical, socio-legal or political control, public consent or public accountability. The fourth is that privacy by design and smart data functionalities to ensure that the ICTs themselves safeguard and reveal only what the data subject permits are not being introduced swiftly or securely enough. The fifth is that cost and efficiency criteria coupled with ignorance of ICTs leads those responsible for public procurement to rely on private industry and vested interests to the detriment of society and democratic accountability. Quantum surveillance results.
One response might be the "the tendency to interpret all manner of things ... as a 'biometric'" is misplaced and should be resisted as sloppy thinking, in the same way that we might be cautious about applying buzzwords such as 'quantum' that offer an ostensible authority but in practice often obscure rather than clarify. Quantum cornflakes and dogfood?

Lodge concludes that -
The broad definition of 'biometrics' should not be accepted as legitimate if a quantum surveillance state and society are to be avoided, if citizen privacy and data are to be protected, and if security in the wider sense is to be safeguarded.
What she describes as her key findings are that -
Quantum surveillance is happening without quantum leaps in ethical understanding, sociolegal and political controls and public accountability to ensure legitimacy, justice and the sustainability of democratic norms, values and practices.

• The intertwining of internal (AFSJ and internal market, including sustainable economy, environment and knowledge society) policies with external security presents significant challenges to innovative thinking. Disjointed policy-making insecuritises commodified citizens and states.

• Concern over the indiscriminate and growing use of biometrics for increasingly mundane and imprecise purposes results in a breach of the earlier intention to ensure their proportionate deployment for verifying and authenticating a person's claim to a specific, context-dependent identity.

• Technological innovation, and the way in which the EU member governments have accepted a definition of biometrics originating in the discourse of the US and its homeland security agenda, has led to an unthinking culture of biometricisation and commodification of citizens separate from legitimate border management intentions.

• Applications and policies using biometrics should be subject to stringent data protection risk assessment criteria.

• Biometricisation of citizens erodes the principle of citizen equality.

• Biometricisation and digital life should not be separated from e-governance and ICT use for social and commercial use in the public or private sector, or in joint public-private sector arrangements.

• The potential for biometrics to augment security needs to be revisited, and an effective and ethical EU privacy and personal data protection regime defined and enforced across governance and commerce.

• Biometrics must be recognised as a business opportunity and not simply accepted as an infallible tool for verifying identity. Commerce in biometrically verified and verifiable identities attracts commerce and criminal activity. Cybercrime is growing, and privacy respecting ICTs have a long way to go if citizen identity is to be better protected.

• Interoperability goals to boost the competitiveness of the knowledge society must cease to be separated from the discourse over securitising territorial borders.

• The implications for citizen and societal security from cybercrime and trade in e-identities needs urgent attention, legislation and preferably a uniform definition of what constitutes a 'crime' and the institution of common penalties based on EU standards, if pervasive insecurity is not to result from e-identity (mis)use.

• The overall risk is unintentional insecuritisation owing to the lag between ICT innovation and up-to-date regulatory frameworks compounded by lack of overarching common EU rules on data storage, sharing, slicing, etc., for diverse purposes that third parties can exploit to the potential detriment of citizen privacy and data subject integrity.

• There is an urgent need to review with the Fundamental Rights Agency the implications for citizens of ever more automated decision-making that affects their exercise of fundamental rights and Single Market freedom of movement (persons, services, goods and capital).

15 August 2010

Missing bodies

Yesterday's NY Times reports on embarrassment in Japan, where authorities have 'misplaced' sundry centenarians.

Martin Fackler of the Times notes questioning of Japanese rhetoric about a "commitment to its elderly that is unrivaled in the West", challenged by incidents such as -
police found the body of a man thought to be one of Japan's oldest, at 111 years, mummified in his bed, dead for more than three decades. His daughter, now 81, hid his death to continue collecting his monthly pension payments, the police said
Alarmed, local governments began sending teams to check on other elderly residents. What they found so far has been anything but encouraging.

A woman thought to be Tokyo's oldest, who would be 113, was last seen in the 1980s. Another woman, who would be the oldest in the world at 125, is also missing, and probably has been for a long time. When city officials tried to visit her at her registered address, they discovered that the site had been turned into a city park, in 1981.
Fackler quotes the mordant comment by bureaucrat Akira Nemoto that "Living until 150 years old is impossible in the natural world. But it is not impossible in the world of Japanese public administration."

Putting aside notions of filial piety in a rose-tinted Japanese past - problematical because of historical accounts indicating that inconvenient elders were bullied, beaten or simply abandoned in the snow - I wonder whether ineptitude or indifference on the part of the Japanese bureaucracy is that exceptional. Do we 'lose' elders in Australia? What could/should we do if grannies and great grandpas (or great uncles, particularly those who failed in their civic duty by omitting to be wealthy and have kids) are being misplaced?

Fackler states that -
To date, the authorities have been unable to find more than 281 Japanese who had been listed in records as 100 years old or older. Facing a growing public outcry, the country's health minister, Akira Nagatsuma, said officials would meet with every person listed as 110 or older to verify that they are alive; Tokyo officials made the same promise for the 3,000 or so residents listed as 100 and up.
Why not meet with those under 100, both to check that they are alive and - more challengingly - that they are being properly fed, are not strapped to chairs and aren't suffering from bedsores?
The national hand-wringing over the revelations has reached such proportions that the rising toll of people missing has merited daily, and mournful, media coverage. "Is this the reality of a longevity nation?" lamented an editorial last week in The Mainichi newspaper, one of Japan’s biggest dailies....

The soul-searching over the missing old people has hit this rapidly graying country — and tested its sense of self — when it is already grappling with overburdened care facilities for the elderly, criminal schemes that prey on them and the nearly daily discovery of old people who have died alone in their homes.
Fackler comments that -
For the moment, there are no clear answers about what happened to most of the missing centenarians. Is the country witnessing the results of pension fraud on a large scale, or, as most officials maintain, was most of the problem a result of sloppy record keeping? Or was the whole sordid affair, as the gloomiest commentators here are saying, a reflection of disintegrating family ties, as an indifferent younger generation lets its elders drift away into obscurity?

"This is a type of abandonment, through disinterest", said Hiroshi Takahashi, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare in Tokyo. "Now we see the reality of aging in a more urbanized society where communal bonds are deteriorating."

Officials here tend to play down the psychosocial explanations. While some older people may have simply moved into care facilities, they say, there is a growing suspicion that, as in the case of the mummified corpse, many may already have died.

Officials in the Adachi ward of Tokyo, where the body was found, said they grew suspicious after trying to pay a visit to the man, Sogen Kato. (They were visiting him because the man previously thought to be Tokyo's oldest had died and they wished to congratulate Mr. Kato on his new status.)

They said his daughter gave conflicting excuses, saying at first that he did not want to meet them, and then that he was elsewhere in Japan giving Buddhist sermons. The police moved in after a granddaughter, who also shared the house, admitted that Mr. Kato had not emerged from his bedroom since about 1978.

In a more typical case that took place just blocks from the Mr. Kato's house, relatives of a man listed as 103 years old said he had left home 38 years ago and never returned. The man's son, now 73, told officials that he continued to collect his father’s pension "in case he returned one day".

"No one really suspects foul play in these cases", said Manabu Hajikano, director of Adachi's resident registration section. "But it is still a crime if you fail to report a disappearance or death in order to collect pension money." ...

In at least some of the cases, local officials have said, an aged parent disappeared after leaving home under murky circumstances. Experts say that the parents appeared to have suffered from dementia or some other condition that made their care too demanding, and the overburdened family members simply gave up, failing to chase after the elderly people or report their disappearance to the police.
And on the 'absence' front - don't ask, don't tell - what's claimed as a 2001 draft of a US Army comic book on DADT. (Perhaps too much text for the intended audience.)