back to article Thanks for the data retention, tech sector

While Australians wring their hands over data retention, let's also remember the tech sector's abject failure to influence politics in the seven years the debate's been running here. The sector, from start-ups to international giants, merely continued its long run of failing to get what it wanted from Australian politics – a …

  1. dan1980

    I am just emptied of fight. I know that's what they want but there's only so much that scattered, concerned individuals can do.

    I wrote letters - I really did.

    I expressed my concerns about the creation of vast honey-pots of data so attractive to organised criminals that they would be the target of perpetual, prolonged, well-financed, sophisticated attacks and that, with so many high profile intrusions in recent times, it would not be a question of "if" but "when" this will happen to the data that will be collected under this regime.

    I questioned why there were no extra protections for this extra data to ensure that use of this new dataset would be restricted to those professed critical scenarios and specific agencies. Why, I asked, should this data that is being justified on national security and 'serious crime' grounds be available to civil litigants; how does such lack of control around access to the data accord with the reasons for collecting it?

    I delved further into this, saying that once data is collected, what safeguards are there to prevent its for currently unknown purposes. What monitoring and oversight would there be to identify misuse and what penalties would there be in instances where this was identified? I referenced recent revelations that dozens of Victorian Police officers had been found to have improperly accessed the LEAP database, resulting in the -identified - misuse of over two hundred confidential records and that most of these uses were unauthorised. If police are currently able to access the existing information without proper authorisation, what does this mean for access to the vastly increased data set being proposed, given that it has been announced that access to the new data will be under the same arrangements as current data.

    In an effort to address different issues and thus - hopefully - require a more considered response, I asked about ISPs and how retention of this data might impact their 'Safe Harbour' protections, given that a key part of the ruling that iiNET did not 'authorise' copyright infringement in the Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Limited case was that iiNET couldn't be said to be reasonably able to 'review and analyse' the alleged offending conduct. If ISPs are required to record and retain all this metadata, how would this affect such cases in the future - would ISPs be therefore required to police their networks on behalf of foreign rights-holders?

    I got boiler-plate.

    Apparently I know that Australia is facing increased threats of terrorist attacks and that law enforcement agencies are in need to timely data to help protect all Australians for attacks and serious crime.

    I was buoyed to learn that the Australian Federal Government was committed to the privacy of Australians and the security of the nation's data was a top priority.

    It was explained to me, ever-so-helpfully, that internet service providers currently provide information and that this is essential to law enforcement agencies and that no new information will be collected.

    Not one concern I raised was addressed and not one question I asked was answered.

    I watched the news and current affairs programs and read the papers and, but for passing mentions and inadequate explanations parroting ministers and AFP representative and the always reliable AG, there was nothing. No outrage, no calls to arms, no in-depth explanations of what data would be collected or challenges to those spreading misinformation and half-truths.

    This law was always going to pass. The best we could hope for was to get some sensible amendments through. But the numbers weren't there.

    People are free to vote how they please but ANYONE who voted for the Coalition or Labor in the last federal election is to blame for this. You gave unimpeded power to a set of humans determined to undermine the freedoms and privacy of all of the rest of us.

    But hey - there's no more 'carbon tax' or 'mining tax' right? Phew - dodged some serious bullets there.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I am just emptied of fight. I know that's what they want but there's only so much that scattered, concerned individuals can do.

      You just answered your own question. The politicians know that we in IT who are concerned are scattered and not a majority. The agencies know where we live and work. Right now, we're sort of like flies... not worth the trouble to go after. The vast majority of folks either feel like their voice doesn't matter, or they like the warm, fuzzy the politicians and agencies are keeping us secure and "thinking of the children".

      At some point, the house of cards may crumble and they'll point to us in IT and say "see... there's the problem." They are past masters of the blame game and in that game, they will win, we will lose.

      At some point, they'll just wear us down and their perfect world and state will be in place. Unless, the majority of the populace stop playing with their shiny toys and look around... then there will be a chance. Keep questioning and fighting. It's people like you, myself and others who do this that keep us from falling fast into the pit. And if it does fall over, we can still hold our heads up in the knowledge that we were free and we fought with the tools we had.

      1. Persona non grata

        That's not the answer Mark

        The answer is our media is now every bit as much part of the problem as the politicians. They're not the fourth estate, they're now merged with the Third (Commons). Australian subjects have no real say in governance anymore except in those areas where Greens/Independents are their representatives.

        Both major parties and the collaborating, desperate media are ignoring them in a grab for unneeded authority based in fear. ALP and LNP memberships are almost non-existent for a reason (except for those who would game the system of course,) nobody with any serious interest in politics outside self-enrichment or a lust for naked power would want anything to do with either party. They're completely divorced from their original philosophical raisons d'etres.

        An entrenched and increasingly hereditary political class who have tried to reduce the degree of democracy because it jibes with their authoritarian bent. They don't go into politics without this weird idea they have a god-given right to demand how others live their lives. It's probably a form of psychosis.

        I think Douglas Adams had it right when he suggested that anyone who wanted to rule was ipso facto completely unsuited to do so. Perhaps we need to replace the current system with a man with a poor memory living in a small shack answering questions. Couldn't be worse than the current shower.

        (and breathe out...)

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: That's not the answer Mark

          You are correct on the media. Here in the States they play very much into the left-sided or right-sided thinking when it suits them*. And all of it comes from politics. Trending is more important real journalism. The Constitution only means something to them if they are threatened or if suits them*.

          Funny, my dad always said what Douglas Adams said... "Find the guy who doesn't want the job and give it to him. He'll do it right."

          *i.e.: it sells newspapers or get clicks.

    2. Mark 65

      Shrugs shoulders, pays for VPN. Done.

  2. dan1980

    @Mark 85

    If only we merely felt like our voices didn't matter; that somehow we were just being unduly pessimistic, that someone, somewhere was hearing us and and paying attention.

    But if people who spend their whole adult lives studying law and privacy and IT security can put forward the most well explained, well reasoned and accurate arguments and still be ignored in favour of some cops saying "we needs it" and foreign commercial interests squawking "piracy is theft!" then no reason or truth or plea or observation can dent their resolve to do exactly what they want to do.

    Indeed, there's actually no point presenting reasoned arguments because the elements that are most objectionable to us are part of the reason they want this.

    So, we're worried that this trove of information detailing our lives to a level that not even our families and partners know about will be available to everyone from councils investigating rubbish dumping to doctors groups investigating unethical relationships to movie studios trawling for copyright infringement and that it will be available without a warrant or even much oversight?

    Well that's part of the point of the legislation in the first place. If it wasn't then access to the data would be restricted. You can't argue against restricting access to civil third parties if you really mean for the data to be used to help LAW ENFORCEMENT agencies from protecting us from SERIOUS CRIME. It would be beyond simple to restrict access in this way; you write into the legislation that the data may only be accessed by law enforcement personnel and only in the investigation of criminal matters*.

    Other things they either just don't care about or are to arrogant to believe could ever be a problem.

    So, we're worried that this retention will create an perpetual, ever-expanding, irresistible target for any and all criminal organisations looking to profit from identity fraud or selling the information on to those who will?

    That's nice but terrorists.

    What kind of government could possibly put such concerns above the need to prevent acts so infrequent that not even the US can identify one instance where their programs - the widest and most all-invasive spying in history - have materially helped stop such an attack?

    To think of the privacy and security of 23 million people above trying to lessen a risk that is - even by the most absurdly pessimistic and selective number wrangling - less deadly than falling out of bed (which is no joke - older people are at serious risk from falls) would just be irresponsible.

    Why? Because rare, isolated shocking incidents are far more news friendly than prevalent, everyday issues that are, by the numbers, far more serious. Far easier to get people concerned that their loved ones might be the victim of a terrorist attack, despite the fact that they are some thousand times more likely to kill themselves. But do we find our government championing this cause? No. Pitiful funding and no rules that stop health services siphoning those funds to pay for other things.

    It's not important to reform mental health in Australia to try and help prevent two and a half thousand suicides each year (not to mention all the other issues). Indigenous health? Why worry about that - it's just a 'lifestyle choice', right Tony?

    But a half a billion dollar boost for 'counter-terrorism' and sweeping new legislation that erodes privacy and security for all Australians to prevent a potential average of, what, 2 - 4 deaths a year? Sign us up.

    * - Of course, that means less once they approve the TPP and copyright infringement becomes a criminal case, but that's a little beside the point, which is that they didn't even try to restrict access.

    1. dan1980

      Just to be clear, though - illegal dumping of waste is not a good thing. It can be an environmental issue or pose health and safety risks. From a more prosaic standpoint, it's generally unsightly and costs the council money, wasting tax-payer rates on the required cleanups.

      Likewise, issues of animal cruelty, like the recent 'live baiting' scandal in Queensland and claims of unethical behaviour between doctors and patients can be serious.

      But are these things really so severe that those bodies investigating the issues - bodies that are not law-enforcement agencies or under any oaths or responsibilities to the public - should have access to this data without a warrant?

      Of course not, but that is the way it is RIGHT NOW and the this new trove of data will be accessible under exactly the same regime and in exactly the same manner and with exactly as few restrictions and with exactly as little oversight.

      Oh, but it's necessary to stop terrorists and pedophiles.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge


      I seriously believe the old statement about "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". We're living in a time when that has become very true. I'm of the age where I should be sitting back in my easy chair and yelling back at the TV, but instead, I fear for those younger than I. I believe that at some point, they (collectively) will hopefully open their eyes and realize that those of us raising our voices were right. But I fear it may be too late. I guess I'm still a dreamer in that I have hope and that things will turn around. That freedom isn't just a meaningless word is more important than corporate greed or political power. Security does come at a price.. you either give up freedom or you have to be vigilant to protect freedom. This isn't something that politicians will do for you. As long as there's some hope, there is some freedom.

      Yes, there are those who would trade their freedom (not just political, but thoughts, jobs, even lifestyle) for security or at least the false sense of security. They and those who crave power will be the ones shouting us down.

      1. dan1980

        @Mark (85)

        Well, I don't necessarily agree with that statement.

        Personally, I think the problem is twofold. First, power attracts the corrupt and second, power is most easily obtained by the corrupt and corruptible.

        An honest, principled person in politics will not go far in any of the major parties in any of our countries, whether that's the Democrats in the US, the Liberal-National party in Australia, Labour in the UK, the UMP in France or the SDP in Germany.

        At some point, their principles will be a barrier to advancement and so they must either retain their principles and stay at a lower level (or leave) or else abandon them and make the deals and alliances to get the backing or funds or favours they need to progress.

        In other words, the attainment of power requires a dedication to that pursuit and valuing the result more than the means or indeed nearly anything one must do or say or promise or anyone that must be dealt with or betrayed or hopped into bed with. Thus, those with power are those who had the willingness and determination to do what it takes to achieve it. And 'what it takes' is not a civic-minded and selfless service to the public, nor a personal integrity to tell the truth and do what is best.

        That's why those people who do stand up for their principles and most champion a more measured approach tend to be independents - people who found that they wanted to make a difference and represent their electorate but were not willing to sell themselves and the public to the ideological dogma and commercial-influences of the major parties.

        Some independents are corrupt too, of course, but the politicians that tend to stick up for what they believe in are very unlikely to hold any real power if they are in a major party. How can they? Take Australia's coalition, for example, where the leader has expressly told the members that they must vote on party lines, even if they disagree. (As happened in the same-sex marriage votes.)

        Power doesn't corrupt, it's just easier to get it if you are and weeds out those who aren't.

        But anyway - why "corrupt"? What is being "corrupted"? The true and noble nature of the venerable and honorable office of the professional politician? There's no corruption here - they are utterly true to their nature.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          I think you might be right, even though that phase has been around and eon (or so it seems). Politics doesn't seem to draw the noble minded folk or at least let them attain any "rank" within the party like it supposedly once did. Those are not corrupt, obviously don't have the power nor want it. Those that have the power want more.

          It's the same way here, the "leaders" (as they like to call themselves) set the stage for the rest to fall into line. Which is a big part of the divisiveness in the US Congress. The concepts of compromise and rationality have gone by the wayside. I believe that was once called statesmanship. Although there is the reality that many were not much different then what we have now.

          Sidenote: I wonder if this conversation will lead to stay in Gitmo for us? Or at least a visit by some guys driving a black SUV?

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