Many people think that Australian governments have gone overboard in their response to terrorism, discarding important civil liberties in the process. But in comparison to some places, we’re not so badly off.

Consider this report from The Guardian on Italy. Under new anti-terrorism legislation, anyone using an internet café in Italy, even just to send a fax or make a phone call, must now produce identification. And the café “must also supply the police with records of the times at which customers enter and leave the premises and which computers or telephones they use.”

Now there are dozens of perfectly legitimate reasons, unconnected with terrorism, why people using an internet café should be concerned about their privacy. Today’s travellers often depend heavily on such places, but few of them will relish the idea of their cyber-movements being tracked by the police. It’s the modern equivalent of the Soviet-era rules under which every typewriter had to be registered.

A number of European countries, Italy among them, are traditionally said to put up with quite draconian legislation because in practice the administration is so inefficient that they are never enforced. But The Guardian thinks this law is already having an effect: “An internet point manager in a part of Rome which has a large immigrant population [said] about one in five of those entering the premises had refused to provide identification and left.”

Are there any Crikey readers in Italy who can tell us if this is really as crazy as it sounds?

Peter Fray

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