[LINK] More about Govt snooping our internet uses
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Thu Jun 17 16:21:03 EST 2010
Web snooping policy shrouded in secrecy
June 17, 2010 - 12:56PM
The federal government is hiding controversial plans to force ISPs to
store internet activity of all Australian internet users - regardless
of whether they have been suspected of wrongdoing - for
law-enforcement agencies to access.
Political opponents and other critics of the scheme have described
the draft policy as "alarming" and accused the government of going
"on a fishing expedition for as much data on the public as they can
get". One ISP executive has
the plan as "a nanny state gone totally insane".
The Attorney-General's Department has been holding consultations with
industry about implementing a "data retention regime", similar to
that adopted by the European Union after terrorist attacks several years ago.
data that ISPs would be required to store included contents of
communications such as web browsing history.
Yesterday, a spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland denied
web browsing histories would be stored, saying the government was
only seeking to identify "parties to a communication", such as
senders and receivers of emails and VoIP calls.
However, it is difficult for the public to get a clear picture of the
policy because the government has sworn all parties to secrecy.
Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association,
criticised the government for not being transparent and open with the
public about its intentions. Coroneos said he was forbidden by
confidentiality agreements from discussing any details of draft
proposals he has been provided.
"The decision at this stage to keep the process under wraps is the
decision of the government. It's not the decision of the industry,"
he said in a phone interview.
"We still argue that there be an open and transparent process here."
Greens communications spokesman Scott Ludlam also criticised the lack
of transparency, saying in a phone interview he had a researcher
investigating the scheme to "try and work out how it fits in to the
government's supposed grave concerns and fears about online privacy".
"To me there seems to be some profound contradictions going on
there," Senator Ludlam said, adding that the policy "on first glance
looks quite alarming".
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has recently fired barbs at
Facebook and Google over privacy failures and their alleged disregard
for the sanctity of users' personal information.
Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic
Frontiers Australia, said the government appeared to be trying to
access whatever passes through any ISP in this country, while
displaying "no regard whatsoever for our privacy or our civil liberties".
"What has emerged in recent days has been a clear picture of a
government on a fishing expedition for as much data on the public as
they can get," Jacobs said.
"It's not just a fishing expedition, it's casting a driftnet for the
communications of all Australians regardless of whether they have
ever been suspected of the slightest wrongdoing.
"Combined with the censorship policy, a pretty unhappy picture is
emerging of this government's attitude towards our digital lives."
Some commentators have said the copyright lobby would inevitably try
the scheme to hunt down and prosecute illegal file sharers, but
Sabiene Heindl, head of the music industry's anti-piracy arm, Music
Industry Piracy Investigations, said: "We have no present intention
to do that."
McClelland's spokesman defended the lack of transparency, saying the
government had consulted broadly with industry about the plan but "it
would not be appropriate to disclose policy discussions which are the
subject of consultations with the industry".
"These consultations have involved identifying the parties to a
communication, where and when that communication is made and the
communication's duration," the spokesman said.
"It does not include the content of a communication such as people's
conversations or contents of an internet banking session, for example."
It is understood that earlier reports that web browsing history would
be included were based on earlier drafts of the policy which
stipulated content such as this would be logged and stored. The
government appears to have since stepped down on this aspect of the
scheme, although nothing is set in stone.
ZDNet.com.au, which originally reported that web browsing history
would be logged, has
by its original report, quoting sources yesterday as saying claims
that URL history would not be retained were "not accurate".
"The government has not as yet made any decision in relation to a
data retention regime. However, any arrangement will strike the
appropriate balance between individual privacy, commercial
imperatives and community expectations that unlawful behaviour is
investigated and prosecuted," McClelland's spokesman said.
Coroneos, who is able to comment more generally on similar data
retention regimes adopted by EU states, said the industry in
Australia already had a track record of assisting law-enforcement
agencies and questions the need for a "blanket" regime covering the
communications of all internet users.
"[Users] have legitimate privacy expectations and assume that their
online communications and browsing activities are private unless
they've been clearly informed otherwise," he said.
"Secondly, there's a question of whether the harm being being
addressed is outweighed by the economic or social burden of the
measures proposed. Are we cracking a nut with a sledgehammer here?"
Coroneos also raised concerns about security of the information that
will be stored by ISPs and the expected high costs of implementing
any scheme, which would inevitably be passed on to end users.
This story was found at:
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or
sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.
~Madeline L'Engle, writer
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