back to article Oz government in filter paranoia meltdown

In a performance punctuated with all the hallmarks of paranoia, Australian Communications Minister Stephen Conroy laid into internet giant Google earlier this week, suggesting that the approach taken by their chief executive, Eric Schmidt, is a "bit creepy". Google hit back yesterday, saying that Conroy had singled it out as …


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  1. Thomas 4
    IT Angle

    From an outsider's perspective

    One could be forgiven for thinking that Australia's government has gone batshit crazy.

    1. Ida

      Nah you are wrong

      If you only think that. You should know it

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Yep and there's nothing the people *will* do about it

      This is supposed to be the radical left wing. Last time there was a government this daft they were chucked out by the Governor General, this time however, they're just going to point at the right wing conservative nutters and say they're worse than us.

      The sad thing is that they'll be right.

      (Voting for change next election, ie the Hyperactive kids, spending all the money they nicked from me and my family, can F@#* OFF!)

      1. Rattus Rattus

        Labor "the radical left wing"?

        Are you serious? There is no such thing as a radical left wing party at all in Australia. Even the Greens are only the moderate left. Labor is moderate right. Coalition, of course, being fairly hard-right, then the absolute loonies like Family First and similar being hard-frothing-right-wing.

        But honestly, there is nothing "left" at all about Labor, and there hasn't been for decades.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Self righteous idiot

    '... Conroy described Google as having committed the "single greatest breach in the history of privacy" by deliberately collecting private wireless data while taking pictures for its "Street View" mapping service.'

    I'd agree to that, with the exclusion of those dictatorial suppressive states like China, North Korea, and so forth that block their people's free right to access websites. Oh, wait.

    1. Daniel 1

      "single greatest breach in the history of hyperbole", more like

      What were they doing, inside places like the Lubyanka, for all those years, we wonder - if the privacy they breached, in there, wasn't as 'historic' as the privacy breached by Google, driving by and collecting enough data-packets to render about half a nipple, from people who couldn't even be bothered working out how to protect their privacy in the first place?

      I would say that this man seems to have downloaded his sense of history off Wikipedia... except even Wikipedia has a fairly decent page about the 'Lubyanka'.

      So, all I can guess, is, he never bothered studying history. Or anything else, for that matter. He's right, though: the Internet is a bad place. People can learn stuff on there. We should find a way to switch it off.

      1. Keith T

        Look at Echelon

        We don't even need the distant history of far away places.

        The USA, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia have Echelon.

        We use each others intelligence agencies to keep tabs on our own citizens.

  3. seanj

    How long?

    Wonder how long it'll be before Stevie-boy starts appearing in public with his little tin-foil hat firmly attached - and is there anything we can do to speed it along?

    Ste-eeeve, they're listening to your thoughts Steve. Google are monitoring your brainwaves from space, and are posting all your thoughts to Facebook for the world to see... Ste-eeeve, they get the clearest signal when you're sleeping, Steve... They're going to come and get you, Steve. I'd stay awake if I were you, Steve, and stay away from all electrical outlets - they can see you through them.

    1. Stone Fox
      Thumb Up

      Re: How long

      for some reason I found myself reading everything from "Ste-eeve" onwards in the voice of the annoying ones from charlie the unicorn...

      btw, surely some of ste-eeve's statements could be considered libelous?

      1. Captain Thyratron


        Dude, I was totally doing the same thing and then I read your comment.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long?

      Indeed - Stevie wearing a tin foil hat about the google data farming, google wearing a tin foil hat about Stevie's net filtering. And the rest of us wearing tin foil hats for even entering this discussion.

      "Tin foil hat", "conspiracy theorist" and the like is transparent, asinine brainwashing to prevent people from alleging misconduct on behalf of authority figures (corporations and governments) lest we be labelled "insane" and socially punished. We're idiotic primates and we need to stop doing this.

      1. Your Handle, my Handle, it's all good
        Thumb Up

        All in all ...

        ... a good time to be in the tin foil business?

  4. Dazed and Confused

    he mighy be as mad as a hatter

    but I suspect that he is right that Google's software was deliberately designed to gather up the user data packets. Now they might not have meant to deploy that piece of software (a dubious claim) but the fact that that is was collecting a lot more than MAC addresses must be a deliberate bit of coding and would have shown up like a saw thumb in testing. The quantities of data involved would have been orders of magnitude higher.

    1. Peter H. Coffin

      Potentially silly!

      I can think up legitimate reasons for pretty much any data possible to be collected in the time the van drives past that do not involve an invasion of privacy. A-#1 on that list is getting a mass sampling of how many unsecured wireless devices are being used to access Google IP ranges at the point of monitoring, as a rough sample of how many in the entire world might be, and from that, back-figure how many internet devices are being being used worldwide by Google monitoring their own traffic. There won't be enough sampling in a drive-by to "hack" a secured connection, but you do need data from the packet to get its origin, destination and an accurate time so as to be able to cross reference with the logs back in the mothership, and (if possible) connect to the wireless network long enough to flick out a dense packet of the same information plus geo location to a specific IP to confirm. That's SCIENCE in action, there! (Probably illegal in many jurisdictions, but calling it "an invasion of privacy" rather waters down the very concept of what privacy is and what invading it means. A person walking past you and your spouse having a row is not "invading your privacy", even if they note that you're having a row, until that person tells someone else that cares. Google merely knowing what your privnet was accessing at the time isn't an invasion of privacy until they tell someone else who cares.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @A person walking past you and yours

        I would say that they would be invading your privacy by forcing you to listen to their feeshus and you have every right to tell anyone who cares (but perhaps not anyone who doesn't care as then you might be invading their privacy).

        And if they were having a ding-dong outside your privy, what then???

  5. Roger Jenkins


    Can we please export this man to be the leader of your Nu-nulabour? Pretty please.

    Fibre to the home we'll keep. Internet filter! Ridiculous.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Organised group

    "Conroy complained of "an organised group in the online world ... spreading misinformation"."

    Yes, we're called voters. Ignore us at your peril.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No doubt about it

    Conroy is a muppet....

    Where's the muppet icon?

    1. Rattus Rattus

      re: Where's the muppet icon?

      Take your pick, it's any of the last four in the list.

  8. s. pam Silver badge

    Conroy ='s Tw4t for the decade

    this guy is a walking, churgling idiot. entertainment value = 110%, human value = -1,000%.

    the issue is the Aussie press and most punters are such bogans there they believe his every word.

    no wonder he won internet idiot of the year last year, and already looks to have this year sown up...

  9. hplasm


    Ee's a nutter, 'e is...

  10. Jimmy Floyd


    Working on the basis that Anglo-Saxon governments tend to keep an eye on each other (and they do), it's curious to note how little the Australian Labor party has been paying attention to the (mis-) fortunes of the UK Labour party.

    The issue of civil liberties was an issue here (though not the biggest) but it was symptomatic of a government ploughing on with ideas regardless of the views of those who elected them. "Tony knows best, dear. Now shut up."

    When a government ignores the electorate, invariably the electorate demands to be noticed again by voting in the opposition - even if the opposition have some glaring faults. The next Australian federal election comes within a year. Can they stall the firewall until then? It worked for UK ID cards...

  11. Robert Heffernan
    Big Brother

    Bugger-off Conroy!

    Unless the ALP force conroy into dumping the filter alltogether, or better yet, sack Conroy, there is no way in hell I would consider voting for them.

  12. Winkypop Silver badge

    Conroy's driving the fail-bus

    Ding ding!

    All aboard!!

  13. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    With his psychic powers, Stephen Conroy has a great future in programming

    Since he can divine without seeing a computer program, both what the program does, and what it was intended to do. Sadly often not the same thing. He'd be invaluable in our organisation.

    Unfortunately we still would need somebody else with a psychic ability to tell whether what was intended was actually a good idea to do, since that's the part that people are saying he can't manage.

    And really his telepathic power ought to have tuned into this Google isse when it started happening - years ago? - and not just when it was suddenly a big deal in the newspapers. His "Specification-sense" maybe works rather slowly. Any day now he might announce that Android is a heap of cack. Or that iPhone is. And then we'd know, but for now we're on tenterhooks.

  14. ShaggyDoggy


    "set up a website containing all the photos from his yearbook so that he and his friends could rank the girls according to their looks"

    .... and this is wrong how ?

  15. eezatehgeeza
    Big Brother


    ..."I'm not just talking about one person, I'm talking about everybody! I'm talking about form! I'm talking about content! I'm talking about interrelationships! I'm talking about God, the Devil, Hell, Heaven! Do you understand? Finally?"

  16. Sekundra
    Black Helicopters

    Conspiracy or...

    Dazed & Confused.

    Alternatively this was a cock up by some engineers who even if they were vaguely or entirely aware, didn't appreciate the publicity angle.

    Hmm... Probabilities anyone?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Arrgghhhhhhh Yes..... SATAN is the Internet....

    Actually I quite like Conroy in spite of his occasionally very dumb decisions that appear to be influenced by the people who grovel at magic sticks on a wall....

    And despite the ridiculing of the man, he is actually quite clued on and quite right about Google being a) Run by a creepy guy and b) Google did actually design the algorithm to scan peoples unsecured WIFI on the way past.

    Irrespective of the loony fringe taking the piss out of him - I think yeah it's fun but why bother to ridicule and hold him in jest.

    While I applaude all the really neato global stuff that Google is doing I also have my reservations.

    So do many others.

  18. Ess Mohican

    96% against?

    Then Mr Elected Representative do as the majority say, even if you think it is wrong!

  19. Jason Tan

    Oh son your an embarrasment...

    This sort of sh*t really does make it embarrasing to be an Aussie.

    For some reason, both sides of the political spectrum here want to fsck up the 'net.

    The liberals also tried to go down the censorship, - uh I mean filtering - route.

    Ironic he says claims that Google has a "trust us to know best" postion, when teh Aussie govt is not willing to publish it's ban list.

    Apparently that is to stop those who would otherwise not know about the sites visiting them.

    Of course if the filtering system works as well as claimed then knowing about the URLs would not be any help, unless of course you could get aroujd the system.

    Of course the govt have also claimed that would be non trivial to do, so there really is no reason not to trust us Aussi'es with our own block list - is there?

    As for google collecting wireless info.

    If people want to keep their data private they should.

    The number of unsecured wireless nertworks inAdelaide (a small Australian captial city) is incredble.

    If they want to blame industry, they should blame the wireless access point industry, who ship WAPs in an insecure config (i.e. no encryption) because it would be too expensive to support WAPs with encryption turned on.

    Blaming Google for collecing info that people are voluntarily publishing is beyond farcical.

    Fscking clown.

    In the 90s we had an adjective down here based on the then current Communications minister.

    That was to Alston something. E.g. that badly implemented thing has really been Alstoned.

    I think we have a new adjective.

    The Aussie govt is really Conroying this issue.

    If the govt really want to do something about net safety and risk reduction, then education including the concepts behind SSL, phishing, spamming, the 411s, wireless network security and the like would be a far better way to help protect the community.

    I.e. actually provide people with the witherwerall to protect themselves from a wide variety of threats, instead of trying to implement a system which only concentrates on a very narrow area of net risk and has no chance of doing it well.

    This would as far as I know be a revolutionary step in terms of community net risk reduction, instead of yet another destined to fail net filtering program.

    Joke alert - this guy is not a minister he's a joke. And if I don't laugh, I'll cry.

    1. I didn't do IT.
      Big Brother

      Re: Education *

      "actually provide people with the witherwerall to protect themselves from a wide variety of threats"

      Hey, now! Can't have that here! If people got the idea that they are (1) responsible for themselves or (2) able to do things on their own with out us "experts"... why, I shudder to think of such nonsense.

      All we need to "educate" them is that they should always trust government blindly in all things, including who to vote for, and all will be well with the world. If government's happy, you should be happy to.

      If not, we have a place for you, as well...

      * I started this out as satire, but looking back it's surprisingly accurate... and scary.

    2. Keith T

      Government happy to allow unsecured WAPs to be sold

      Our governments are happy to allow unsecured wireless routers and buggy vulnerable PC software to be sold.

      It makes it easy for government to snoop.

    3. Rattus Rattus

      @ Jason Tan

      You say "both sides of the political spectrum here want to fsck up the 'net" however this is incorrect. Everyone on the right wants to fsck up the net. The few parties we have that are centrist or left-of-centre are the Greens, the Democrats, and the Australian Sex Party. These are the people who want the net to thrive. Consider sending your vote to one of these parties.

      And to El Reg: How about reviving the title "World's Greatest Luddite" that one of our Senators won repeatedly a few years ago? Alston's retired now, surely the title should pass on to his spiritual successor Conroy?

  20. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    96 per cent of public ...

    @"96 per cent public opposition to the filter" ... yet this Senator Conroy still refuses to believe people, so throw him out of his job. He very evidently isn't representing the public.

    This guy is bad news for the whole Internet. Because what his government brings in opens up opportunities for similar hard like governments around the world to use similar technology to increase their control over people.

    With this kind of deeply arrogant Narcissistic person, no matter what anyone says, they will be utterly bloody minded in their utter determination to refuse to give in to anyone to the bitter end. They simply don't want to listen to anyone, exactly as he proves in his own actions. To this kind of person only their opinion counts. That isn't the kind of person anyone needs in power over them, because they are an arrogant Tyrant over all they control.

    This kind of person cannot be left in power because they get ever worse over time. Its because they refuse to accept any feedback on what they are doing. (Its like a machine going ever more out of control as it looses feedback). So they get progressively worse over time.

    He has to be thrown out of his job now. If the other politicians around him also refuse to listen, then all Australians need to protest for a regime change. Enough of these Narcissists ruling over everyone. As the world becomes ever more connected, these arrogant Narcissists become ever more of a problem for all of us. :(

  21. Ida


    "350 websites" every one knows how easy it is to change IP addresses as well as url.

    2 words describe Conjob F#@$!$g c##$.

  22. Danny 14


    Im gonna start a VPN service up. I'll take AUS$ too just for convenience.

  23. nichomach

    He is completely wrong...

    ...on the Great Oz Firewall, but describing him as paranoid for his attitude to Google and privacy is probably equally wrong; Google have been having a few too many "oops, we didn't mean it, honest" moments with regard to privacy recently (Buzz, collection of WiFi data etc) and have flat-out lied through their teeth over some of it, and been highly disingenuous about the rest. "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time, it's enemy action." Auric Goldfinger had a point...

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    He's an Australian communications minister

    What did everyone expect?

    We have a long and glorious history of producing luddite communications ministers.

  26. Doshu

    Nutty as a fruitcake

    The man's completely lost it. Somebody please up his medication. Or lower it. Something. But quick!

    1. Gordon is not a Moron

      not a fruitcake

      more like nutty as squirrel shit

  27. Anonymous Coward

    this obsessive need for control over everything

    and megalomania. How odd that it's yet another Labour party which seeks to micro manage it's voters lives.

    Still must protect poor wussy Ozzies from reality. They'd never be able to cope with us whinging poms...poor ickle delicate creatures!

    So very different from Crocodile Dundee what!

  28. LinkOfHyrule
    Paris Hilton


    Aussies are getting so badly treated by their government these days that I expect soon, we over here in blighty and other free countries will have to start giving Australian backpackers political asylum! And rightly too! Sounds like 1984 over-there, but with more lager.

    Paris, cos she refuses to have her tubes filtered.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Google vs Conroy...

    I dont know what Google is doing, quite frankly I dont really care, I'm more concerned that our gobermint is trying to destroy the internets here, do I have to move to NZ? I hope not... btw Americans can you send some of those troops over here to overthrow our oppressive leaders like how you did in Afghanistan and the Iraq thx

    1. Geoff Mackenzie

      Re: American Troops

      Got any oil? Evil, I mean. Got any evil?

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        oil - maybe not ...

        ... uranium though?

  30. heyrick Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Steve, dude, mate, buddy...

    They ARE out to get you. People you don't know and will never meet are plotting right now how to bring you to your knees. My God, don't tell me you've only just realised? It is this wonderful thing called the Internet. American military, blah blah, freedom, blah, illegal downloads, blah. It's all a lie. The entire wired world was created to mobilse a mass of people with the single goal of crushing you. That's its sole purpose, Steve, mate. The internet was designed purely to destroy your life. Everything else is just a smokescreen that you've believed up until this point. Google? A shadowy organisation collecting and indexing your whereabouts at any given moment. Facebook? An autonomous server where people can report Steve-sightings and trade useful information like what they found in your last garbage disposal. ISPs? Well, somebody's gotta lay on this tech. And the great firewall of China? That's bollocks too. Near full time streaming video has been recorded, of you, for over a decade. It is hidden in China, and all those firewall lies are to prevent you from knowing about it while every little tidbit is examined and processed by a veritable army of people, looking over each frame one by one, recording anything that can be used against you. When you get up in the morning, which shoe do you put on first? Why?

    Sorry to be a bearer of bad news Steve, and for posting this my existence here will no doubt be deleted, but - well - somebody's gotta put you out of your misery. You ARE right. We ARE out to get you. Every single 7 billion of us. Why? Well, does there have to be a reason? You were chosen before you were even born. As was Lucy in Michigan who will be seven this year. Just wait until she's a successful adult and realises it was all a set up...

    Run, mate, run and hide while you still can.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What is it with Oz these days....?

    ...something in the water? !!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Something in the lager

      More like...


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