Government wants your bytes
According to the reports, the Australian Government is looking at adopting something like the European Union’s Data Retention Directive which took effect in 2006. Only in Europe’s case, the data is preserved for two years, in Australia it could be up to 10 years.
Dylan Welch in the Sydney Morning Herald has a spokesman for Attorney-General Robert Maclelland denying the government is looking to capture browsing history or data within emails. “The consultations relate to the information to identify the participants in crime networks and terrorist organisations,’’ he said. “It does not include the content of a communication.”
It still intrudes on people’s privacy which is why the public interest group Electronic Frontiers Australia has slammed the proposal. As reported here,the EFA chair Colin Jacobs says it’s in effect turning everyone into a criminal. What the government would be doing, he says, would be like tapping people’s phones before they’re suspected of doing any crime. Similarly, the Director of the Communications Law Centre at the University of Technology in Sydney, Michael Fraser, expressed similar concerns to the ABC. “It would be like the Government listening in on everybody's telephone conversations or opening everybody's mail. It's contrary to the kind of society we enjoy in Australia, where we enjoy freedom as citizens, unless we run into trouble with the law,’’ he said. “This puts everybody into the guilty until proven innocent basket.’’
There’s a pattern here. In February, the Senate passed a billallowing ISPs to intercept traffic as part of “network protection activities’’. And communications minister Steve Conroy says he plans to introduce legislation later this year introducing the internet filter, ostensibly to protect children from pornography and offensive material. Bernard Keane at Crikey has reported that Conroy told Senate Estimates that the government would consider blocking up to 50,000 sites. This is one of the most contentious issues, everyone has a view on it and a lot of you came out blasting the plan when I ran a blog entry on it earlier this year.
One of the issues with the scheme would be the practicalities. It will be costly and smaller ISPs will struggle to comply.
Still, this scheme is unlikely to get up before the election. Indeed, with the government struggling in the polls, you would wonder whether Conroy’s contentious net filter will be delayed again until after the election.
The great irony here is the way this government has attacked Google for breaching privacy when it was out collecting unencrypted Wi-Fi data while taking Street View photographs. Conroy has accused the internet giant of the the “largest privacy breach in the history across western democracies’’. What Google did was wrong. But what the government seems to be planning could be seen as a much more comprehensive invasion of people’s privacy.
What’s your view about this plan? Do we need these protections? Would it work? Or do you see it as an attack on privacy? Would it change your vote?