Saturday, 14 July 2012

Who Stands for Us?

Most people probably haven't heard of it, but the Australian Government's Attorney General has released proposals that would significantly revolutionize our privacy. That is, if there can be anything left of our privacy after this legislation is introduced. You can read what Delimiter has to say about these upcoming draconian measures here; the one sentence summary is that the government would like to maintain a log of all our online activities for two years, as well as be able to easily access our encrypted files. I would argue that these measures are far worse than Stephen Conroy's famous Internet censorship agenda.
Australians have until early August to respond to the proposals. That's quite an outrageously short time to respond by, given the impact of the proposals and the large scope of documentation that a proper reply would have the responder read through. The Pirate Party has already asked for an extension to this deadline (here), only to get a joke of a reply (here).
My position? Once again we are asked to sacrifice some of the very basic privileges that democratic society takes for granted in favor of some elusive security threat. That's George Orwell to you, pure and simple. I think we should all stand up and tell our government what we think of these proposals.
The problems with the proposals are, literally, too numerous to mention. There is no abnormal security to Australia; if there was we would have known about it, and as it is Australia is pretty secure, thank you very much. Therefore, there is no reason to impose such measures on us. Second, what will the government do with all the data it would collect? Does it really stand a chance of digging anything important out of these logs? Third, the technicalities of collecting such vast amounts of data are far from simple. They would kill the smaller ISPs and would make our access to the Internet more expensive overall. In effect, we would be taxed. Fourth, those logs of our activities? They're going to be a major target of interest to all hackers and would be hackers.
By far the worst aspect of this upcoming legislation is the philosophy of it. Essentially, what the government is saying is that it needs to collect data on everything we do online because we are all potential criminals. They are asking for this capability because the logging of everything we do online is achievable.  Now, most Australians will hear of that, shrug their shoulders and continue with their lives. Most Australians are too busy working for a living and serving their families to pay this much attention. However, most Australians would respond with a roar if they were told that their bedrooms are being bugged and recorded for everything that's being said and done there. Now, what is the difference between what the government is proposing to do and this bugging of our bedrooms? The only difference is that the former is technically feasible while the latter is not. However, by the way the government is behaving, it is clear they would love to bug our bedrooms if they only could; the thinking behind the two is the same.
Sadly, it is clear this legislation will pass. Both major parties hate each other's guts, but both automatically vote in favor of everything that has the "security" label about it. Sadly, the Australian public will mostly go unaware of this legislation coming through in the first place, because that good old institution that is supposed to keep it aware - the media - is crumbling apart. Hear the news and read the papers and all you will learn is that the carbon tax would soon murder our economy, perhaps even before asylum seekers arriving here by boat are going to invade our homes and rape our daughters.
Who, then, is standing between us and legislation such as this? Well, the sad truth is that there are not that many who truly protect Australia and its democracy. One such protector is Senator Scott Ludlam, the Greens representative from WA. He is influential and he is a guy I am happy to cheer for, but he plays second fiddle as far as initiative and quality of response go to the Pirate Party. It is the Pirate Party and its activists whose voices are being heard over the media with regards to these matters: they are the first to respond, they are fairly loud given their lack of political clout, and most importantly - the quality of their replies is such that it is referenced by all interested stakeholders, including Ludlam himself (who is not shy of referencing and calling for Pirate Party help). [The EFA, I am sad to say, is all but dead - at least when judged by the volume of its response.]
This weekend the Pirate Party is holding its yearly conference in Melbourne. You can watch it streamed live here. The quality of discussion at the conference is simply amazing: there is serious stuff debated there, with quality arguments thrown in. There is much passion, too: the people there care about what they argue for. And most importantly, there is an open door for everyone to say what they have on their minds and there is utter transparency to every process. In other words, witnessing the Pirate Party conference was quite an eye opener for me: politics can be done right, if given a chance.
I am proud to be a member of the Pirate Party, the only political party out there that seems to care for the stuff that really matters. Give them a chance: you might be surprised at what they have to say, too. They may have an intimidating name, but when looked at properly one would clearly notice the Pirate Party stands for very mainstream values - values that the major parties all but forgotten.

Image: Pirate Party Australia, Creative Commons license

1 comment:

Moshe Reuveni said...

Some similar feedback from Mark Newton, published at New Matilda: