Jan 10, 2012

Tracking the trackers: the cyber snoops working in Australia

Companies that have provided surveillance equipment to some of the world's worst régimes are operating in Australia

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Cyber security and communications technology companies involved in internet surveillance, censorship and monitoring activities around the world, including many who assisted the worst Middle Eastern régimes to track and find dissidents, are operating in Australia, and even benefit from taxpayer funding.

A Crikey study based on Bugged Planet‘s communications interception database has revealed at least a dozen companies with track records of internet monitoring or censorship conduct business in Australia, usually in related areas such as ICT equipment and software provision. The list does not include internet monitoring and censorship operations undertaken under contract to intelligence agencies (which are kept from the public and available only to MPs on request) or law enforcement bodies such as police forces.

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11 thoughts on “Tracking the trackers: the cyber snoops working in Australia

  1. McTits Norky

    As far as I’m aware, you cannot get a telco license in Australia without having ‘backdoors’. This is the standard and totally unsurprising. As far as I know, Australia Post (as with most physical cartage companies) have to have systems in place whereby legislated investigative bodies can intercept packages without being tracked by the sender or recipient. Heck, we see it near weekly here in Australia with TV shows about how Customs/Police operate.
    Whilst I don’t think Australia’s at a surveillance state point as much as, say, US or UK is, the recent pronouncements by Attorney General McLelland regarding monitoring of environmental groups certainly does make one wonder if the unofficial constitutional amendments of ‘a fair go for all’ and ‘don’t be an arsehole, mate’ are finally to be wiped from our consciousness. But it’s certainly a stark contrast from when Bob Hawke had the RAAF fly over the Franklin Dam protests, no?

  2. joanjett

    Do you think it would make any difference if we collectively said ‘no’ when told that the call may be monitored for training and marketing purposes? Also, I recommend using Ghostery; free software which blocks data mining cookies yet displays them in the corner so you know how many there are. This page, for example, has 8, 3 from Google, 2 from FB, Netratings, Tweetme & doubleclick. Every little bit helps…

  3. joanjett

    Oh, I meant “training & coaching purposes”, sorry

  4. McTits Norky

    @JoanJett: NoScript, Adblock Plus, RequestPolicy, Ghostery, Wappalyzer, Cert Patrol, BetterPrivacy,… Tor, Prixovy/Polipo… yes the list goes on 😉

  5. joanjett

    Gotta love the name BetterPrivacy! Cudos for the tongue in cheek, ha!

  6. Lee Wilkinson

    Virtually every telecom product, from the lowliest Ethernet switch to a core router has port mirroring or some variant thereof and has for years, include every single vendor in that category if you’re going to point the finger. That this is news at all is supprising, and a bit like accusing Ford of making cars that run policitical dissendents over.

  7. davidk

    It seems we can’t trust multi-nationals.
    @ joanjett et al thanks for the names.

  8. Edward James

    What you have published Bernard Keane. Makes me wonder about the changes to what is required to obtain State surveillance warrants? Some of us may recall Brian Wiltshire was pointing out the enormous telephone exchanges which popped up. he was telling listeners they were all about computing space which with the advent of digital transfer of phone conversations meant everything could be screened compressed and reviewed. Who would think governments and corporations outwardly fighting for freedom and the democratic process would be perceived as that close to the activity of foreign death squads. Edward James

  9. AR

    I’m only surprised that people are surprised! The State in essence has a need to fear its citizens and has/will always use every means to monitor and persecute those deemed subversive.
    FFS, Kafka laid it out more than a century ago, in the days of quill pens & file cards – one doesn’t need to have offended or transgressed yer akshal LAW – when the mindset is, what is not explicitly allowed is forbidden! as Mr PotatoHead, the erstwhile, massively unmissed, A/G demonstrated with his acquiescence to allow surveillance of anyone, no matter how law abiding, if requested by the real paymasters.

  10. Tom McLoughlin

    Important coverage here Bernard. I really think this topic is a strong point of yours, as champion of the web medium.

    My 2 c worth – can’t use my facebook page here in Vietnam. There is vn facebook but mine via Australia is not accessible. It probably doesn’t matter – the tropical climate has slowed me down so all the great pictures I see can’t be bothered getting the camera out. The one legged lady riding a bicycle with 3 mattresses on back – am unlikely to forget. Nor the lady with leg at right angles to knee, hopping, juxtapose literally 5 seconds later to a young female westerner with a medical knee brace loading into a taxi with family and good care. Unlikely to forget.

    These being the exceptions – Ho Chi Minh City of 8 million is one big tough dynamic city that makes Sydney traffic look like kindergarten. family of 4 to a motorbike. Cyclo (3 wheel bicycle) 3 hour tour was toxic and thrilling all at the same time. Mini hotel alley is alot of fun too in the Pham Ngu Lao area.

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