Nov 6, 2012

Assembling the building blocks of global net regulation

It's become clear that the Australian government is working to launch an international attack on online privacy.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

While most of the focus at last Friday’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security hearing with the Attorney-General’s Department focused on the definition of data retention and the extensive work that department had put into preparing data retention laws in secret, part of it revolved around an issue of longer-term and perhaps international significance: the quest to extend Australian attacks on privacy and anonymity offshore.

It dealt with three related issues, all raised by Andrew Wilkie’s rather Socratic question to AGD officials (a transcript has not yet been made available by Hansard) — whether the proposals under consideration would simply affect law-abiding citizens while the targets of these proposed significant extensions of state surveillance powers, the bad guys, would use encryption tools and offshore-based services to avoid detection.

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6 thoughts on “Assembling the building blocks of global net regulation

  1. Greg Jones

    It is seriously difficult to comment on any of this without sounding like some kind of wacko conspiracy nut. It can be a bind.

    But, I don’t think any balanced person would mind “too” much at losing a small degree of privacy on a temporary one-off basis, not a systemic basis, if it meant bringing some really “bad guy” or international thug, to justice.

    But who are the “really bad guys” anyway? If the really bad guys employ the most sophisticated IT systems to avoid detection, which they would, then all that remains in this massive international dragnet, would be the regular mums and dads, kids and all the innocuous social media data that goes with them. Corporate and commercial interests aside, this is totally useless in the context of counter intelligence and international intrigue.

    So, who are the really bad guys? Is this a case of providing a logical answer to the illogical question?

    As usual, great stamina and a very good article.

  2. Kevin Herbert

    Greg Jones:

    The ‘bad guy’ is anyone the US MIC, MSM, Federal Reserve & their merchant bank cronies and the one foreign government with a DC based lobby group, want removed from the main propoganda game. These orgs are the US’s on-going ‘shadow government’ who in fact call the shots

    Since the erosion of their power began after 2000 with the rise of the net, they’ve seen a global awareness emerge of their previous complete control of US Government & its allies’ propoganda…and young Americans don’t like what they have come to understand.

    The US’s shadow Government want to smash alternative, credible news organisations such as the UK’s Media Lens to name but one…..check out the lame duck session of the US Congress after the Presidential elections to see if they don’t try to push a draconian set of controls over the net.

  3. Liamj

    It is hard to see much virtue in govt’s efforts, the very bad guys got cagey years ago and its joe blow whistleblowers, journo’s and activists who will be exposed to govt & their corporate ‘partners’.

    Print media long since ceased to be the ‘free press’ that democracy needs. That corp-govt are now trying v.hard to throttle the genuinely free press web says everything we need to know.

  4. Person Ordinary

    Bureaucrats behind closed doors plotting to deny the people access to free media is both comical, in the “Yes Minister” tradition, and bleak, in the darkest Orwellian sense.

    Comical in their smug expectation of having the power to control a global phenomenon, that is still only in its first stages of evolution, and is not centralised in any way, and which is already essential to the functioning of our economy and society.

    Bleak because of the measures they would have to take to actually deny us access to each other, to knowledge and the means to expose who and what are truly in power.

    Some can see we are in the early stages of a global conflict, between the delusion industry that serves secret power, and human freedom.

    What happens now determines our fate. If people unite to demand internet freedom, before a conspiracy of bureaucrats can shackle it, a global equivalent of an “Arab Spring” will emerge, and this technology will serve us well. But if the people leave it too late, this pleasant little society will collapse into something more like the reality in Syria, or the nightmare fiction of 1984.

  5. James Munro

    Who cares? If govt’s try; they’ll fail as they always do. We all know just how hopeless they are from experience. People will just use proxies/encryption from jurisdictions that aren’t covered. If the govt tries to force ISP’s to restrict traffic to/from such sites, they’ll just come up with some kind of moving target (where they move the proxy every time it’s blocked) or cloud solution. Sounds like another one of Comrade Conroy’s fantasies (along with having middle age men wearing underpants on their heads at spectrum auctions).

  6. Person Ordinary

    Yes, James Munro, a technological solution is not likely to be effective. So political measures will be required, and this is the danger …

    If secret services have power to deny you access to your Crikey account, for example, that power will inevitably be used to serve corrupt self-interest. Unaccountable power is always abused. Unaccountable power always benefits the most corrupt self-interest. The real sin is not the act that abuses power, it is the granting of unaccountable power in the first place.

    An analogy – a policeman kills a man by using a taser 18 times. Shock, horror – power is abused. The real sin is equipping police with a taser that can be used 18 times on the same victim. The fundamental sin is failing to act on the wisdom that all unaccountable power will be abused.

    To grant any organisation the power to intervene between people and the internet would be a catastrophic mistake …

    But who cares? …

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