Proposed ISP filtering allows surveillance of journalists, citizens, politicians

Should Senator Conroy’s proposed ISP filtering come to fruition, it concentrates extraordinary powers on whoever is to actually run it. It allows the surveillance of the Internet activities of Kevin Rudd’s children, the journalists at News Limited, or the government’s perceived political opponents (or its own members), or of anyone.

At will. Without cause. Without warrant. Without oversight.

Whether or not you agree with the filtering plan’s goals, this one thing should give you pause: your web-browsing history, and the web-browsing history of every Australian is available to some as-yet-unknown party, from the moment mandatory ISP filtering is switched on.

Sure, the contractor who provides the filtering service, and who maintains the systems will doubtless have all sorts of NDAs. But if someone in Rudd’s family browses porn from The Lodge, for example, then there’s considerable potential for leverage and extortion, because the contractor could obtain that data at will, even if government officials themselves could not, by law, obtain it.

Because filtering systems are logged. Filtering providers are, in fact, very keen on logging. Whether a request is blocked or allowed, the fact of it is recorded. Filtering providers use it to assess how well the system is performing. Individual user addresses are at times monitored from the logs, and some of that data is processed by humans to identify new things that should be blocked, or to see how people are attempting to defeat the filtering.

Whoever is providing and controlling the filtering gains unprecedented political power. Want to know what the journalists at a particular newspaper are up to? Scan the logs for their network addresses and check out what they’re reading on the Web. Ditto for other politicians. Or for anyone of interest, from parliamentarians to cleaners.

The potential for abuse here is absolutely appalling.

All you have is the word of people that these secrets won’t leak or be abused. Won’t they? The preliminary filter lists have already leaked, and contain quite a number of things that are far beyond what we’ve been told would be there. Our trust has already been violated even during the trial phase.

It’s only a matter of time before someone uses this data for their personal or political advantage.

And we, as a nation, are making it all too easy for that to happen.

Comments

  1. And people like Bob Carr wax lyrical on the fact that Australia does NOT need a Bill of Rights!?!
    Who does Bob work for currently?
    There’s your reason!

  2. Even the anonymous web log statistics would be valuable, I am sure the operator could sell that information. Given businesses desire to maximise returns on investment I think there is a high likelihood that the information will be sold, if not in the beginning then some time later.

  3. Simon Shaw says:

    Good points. Let's hope it doesn't come to pass!

  4. I wonder if there's anything we can really do about it ? It's so very wrong.

  5. There are many reasons to be mistrustful of internet filtering. The 'panic' in Second Life about banning, and the subsequent placating by some who wished the furore to die down quickly has meant the numerous consequences for all of us are not being discussed by a section of the population who should be out there expressing their concern at what the government is proposing.

  6. Doesn't matter what you see
    Or to do with what you read
    You can do it your own way
    If it's done just how I say

    Independence limited
    Freedom of choice is made
    for you my friend
    Freedom of speech is words
    that they will bend
    Freedom with their exception
    Freedom no longer frees you

    - Metallica

  7. Doesn't matter what you see
    Or to do with what you read
    You can do it your own way
    If it's done just how I say

    Independence limited
    Freedom of choice is made
    for you my friend
    Freedom of speech is words
    that they will bend
    Freedom with their exception
    Freedom no longer frees you

    - Metallica

Trackbacks

  1. [...] you haven’t already read about it, you’ll find that there are far more dire problems with the proposal than just the blocking of online games/games-sales or the possibility of blocking Second [...]

  2. [...] thoughts on this issue in Crikey and also in an open letter to Senator Steven Conroy posted in Metaverse Journal.   And while I havent’ seen it yet, there’s more on what looks like a great [...]

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