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Crikey Says

Mar 19, 2015

Get a damn warrant

Data retention a done deal -- so what is a public interest advocate? SBS chair faces grilling on job credentials. Fortescue’s uncertain future after debt-raising fiasco. The story behind that bizarre full-age ad in the Oz. Keane: the case for electricity privatisation. How you’re giving away your data (for free) every day. Mayne: it’s time for Ten to end the soap opera. And why Obama never eats in public.


Well, that’s journalists looked after.

Once they discovered, almost too late, that data retention posed a significant threat to one of the core aspects of journalism, Australia’s media have spent the last 10 days up in arms about mass surveillance, after, with one or two exceptions, ignoring the issue for the last three years.

Journalists will be protected from having their metadata examined in order to identify their sources by a special warrant involving a “public interest advocate”. But what about lawyers? Where’s their protection? What about doctors? For that matter, what about ordinary Australians? The media, apparently, isn’t interested in anyone else but itself.

The journalism information warrant is a good idea. So good, it should be extended, to everyone. If the government wants our data — anyone’s data — get a damn warrant.


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14 thoughts on “Get a damn warrant

  1. KymB

    Regarding the protection of the metadata of journalists – of which I am one – seems to completely miss the point. If authorities can still check the metadata of everyone else, it surely makes it possible to see who has been contacting journalists, rather than the other way around. Okay, that’s quite a bit of data to trawl through, but since the NSA’s supercomputers at Fort Meade and those of GCHQ are searching through trillions of calls and emails vacuumed up by satellites under the Echelon program every day, it’s a problem that can be overcome.

    I see all of this as yet another step in the direction of a police state, along with barely commented upon measures such as now arming Immigration officials at airports. For what purpose? In any other country there would be screams of rage, but to say anything here means one is open to that most terrible of insults: being unAustralian.

  2. Coaltopia

    Get a warrant to *begin* collecting metadata for a mandated period.

  3. Dogs breakfast

    This is a bigger problem than the journalists have realised, I suspect.

    Whereas in the past the journalist could protect his/her source even at the risk of going to gaol, this is now gone by this legislation. The journalist won’t have to give the source up, the metadata will.

    Any source to a journalist now has to be by non-electronic means, unless you are willing to place your life in the hands of the public advocate. I know I wouldn’t.

    As for the rest of Australian indeed. No member of society should have their metadata accessible to Inspector Plod without a warrant, and a public advocate, inspecting the request beforehand.

  4. Dogs breakfast

    OK, KymB has clearly understood the implications. He was typing as I was and got his comment up before me.

    Cheers to you KymB, this is exactly the problem.

  5. klewso

    “Viva The Age of Entitlement!”
    Bought off with scraps from the government table – they can continue to edit what we get to see – we’ll just have to continue to look after ourselves.

  6. mike westerman

    And all for what? Communications minister himself says he uses OTT media to avoid being sniffed – no meta data to see. Crims and plotters will soon be supplied by the ever inventive IT industry with new and improved comms that leave no meta data, so the $400M a year while elephant achieve precisely nothing beyond making Brandis and Abbott appear the fools they are, and Shorten a bit shorter than he was

  7. 19 maurice

    Yep, Kym B and Dog’s B can be summed up thusly:

    Journos – maybe fine.
    Sources – n*ts still between two bricks.
    Outcome – whistle-blowers chilled.

    No wonder the spooks agreed to it…. they haven’t lost anything much.
    That which we feared the most about Communism in the 50′-80’s (the Kafka-esque police state) is coming and we hardly seem to know or care in the slightest.

    Important to this debate is the fact that Australia has no Bill of Rights.

    If I’m wrong please tell me.

  8. Peter Wildblood

    Not only should a warrant be required for all meta data access, there should be a periodic independent judicial review of all warrant applications and, in particular the review should include follow up on the use actually made of the warrant and the meta data “discovered”. I also think that each time our rights are eroded in this way (in any interest – terrorism criminal activity whatever) the penalties for improper and inappropriate access, and improper use of the meta data, whether discovered by judicial review or not should be ramped up forcing authorities to properly assess their own needs rather than use a scatter gun approach that is all too common.

  9. Nicholas Whitlam

    Of course journalists’ sources should be kept confidential.

    The exception is where the source has promoted an untruth, or been sufficiently economical with the truth such that the information conveyed is misleading.

  10. Zeke

    KymB @ 1

    I’ve been to Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia. All of those countries have Armed Immigration officials. I didn’t feel intimidated by them and they were always pleasant and non-threatening. I don’t really see much of a problem here.

    Journalists’ sources should all use a VPN with an end point that is in a country which respects the human right to privacy. Simply keep your communication end point out of the Australian spy agency jurisdiction.

    Leave the spooks to collect metadata which consists of encrypted communication to an offshore VPN provider. I’m setting up a VPN connection this week. It’s not rocket science. I urge everyone to do so and to spread the word.

    I suspect that the government isn’t interested in anything other than making sure they can get the Trans Pacific Partnership with the USA signed. The US copyright holders will have made sure that the TPP cannot be signed unless the copyright trolls can snoop on what we’re watching. I know it sounds like some tinfoil hat conspiracy but I cannot think of any other sane reason for bringing in this horrible mass surveillance. Any reason put forward by Brandis and other cheerleaders for spying on us all are invalid.

  11. Michael Noonan

    I hate the overstatement usually impiicit when people talk about the “Police State”. But dang me – this time it’s for real!

    If we had totally benevolent Government, and could count on always having one, having them have information stored that tells them practically everything you’ve ever done, wouldn’t be too much of a worry. But we don’t. Would you trust George Brandis not to abuse that data if he thought you were a political threat to him? Not with his record!
    And we could well get, somewhere down the track, a Government that is not merely vile, but actually evil. This legislation sets up the machinery for them to tweak slightly to use for oppressive, police state control.
    You think I’m being over dramatic? See the American documentary,” CitizenFour”, that just won the Best Documentary Oscar. See how relaxed and comfortable you feel about the legislation after you’ve seen that.
    And Labor voted for it! I can only think they’re just as corruptly attracted by the power as the Liberals. For the first time in my long voting history I couldn’t vote for either of them.

  12. Coaltopia

    Holy cow, Civil litigation remains – see “Our privacy is about to be serially infringed” ABC Drum piece.

  13. John Attwood

    So, just how do I get to be registered as a journalist?
    I contribute regularly to the local newspaper, is that sufficient?

  14. AR

    I am bemused, but far from amused, by the weak-minded plea for a warrant, as if it is some sort of magic pony protection.
    Magistrates (not even ‘real’ judges)never, ever decline to sign a warrant.
    There might be some protection by a post facto evaluation when nothing of significance (even as specified by the wide trawling nature of the ‘items sought’)is found upon execution.
    Or do we all imagine that Plod & Spook would not dream of searchig purely for intimidation purposes?


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