Monday, September 24, 2012

Only real threat is to our online privacy

Imagine if Australia Post opened and read all your mail.  There would be outrage.

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has given her support to a proposal to document the online activity of Australians.

It wouldn't be acceptable to treat our offline privacy with that kind of contempt.

So why does the Federal Government think it's OK to trash our right to privacy online?

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon recently gave her support to an extraordinary proposal to document the online activity of all Australians.  That's every website we visit — recorded.

Every email — logged.

This regime is part of a huge package of national security reforms being considered by the Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Proposals like this should never be considered in a free society.  Data retention is the kind of policy implemented by totalitarian regimes.

The draconian proposal would create an institutionalised system of government spying on all Australian citizens — just in case you're subject to a criminal investigation.

Nicola Roxon is being incredibly disingenuous.  She distanced herself from the proposal in July.  Then she gave a speech strongly in favour of the proposal in August.  She followed that with a letter to the Herald Sun earlier this month claiming she hadn't made up her mind.

Finally, she put up a YouTube video defending the proposals.  It's strange behaviour for a busy minister who is yet to commit to the idea.

Roxon also claims content won't be captured, but she's plain wrong.  It's simply impossible to separate what she calls ''metadata'' from content.

We don't like it when the government tries to meddle in our lives and we value our privacy.

The last time the government attempted such an extraordinary invasion of privacy was 1986.  That was when the Hawke Labor government tried to legislate a national identity card system.

The Australia Card was a proposal to collect personal information about every citizen.  The information would be collected and used by government departments.  It was effectively a licence to live — it would have been required to get a job, do your banking and receive government benefits.  The proposal was shouted down by ordinary Australians.

Roxon's proposed data retention regime represents an even greater intrusion into our lives.  The potential for mishandling our most private data is immense.

The Australia Card proposed retaining a particular set of details about each person.  But under the Attorney-General's data retention regime it's not just your name, address and date of birth that will be logged.

Everything will be stored;  from emails between family and friends to the website you visit to update your health insurance details.

In a speech given at the Security in Government Conference last week, the Attorney-General spoke about identity theft.

But the data retention proposal would mandate the creation of silos full of personal information.

They would be begging to be attacked by the very hackers and identity thieves the proposal seeks to curb.  In trying to solve a purported security problem it would be creating one of even greater enormity.

Targeted warrants are far more likely to help catch criminals.  They allow the police to collect information in the course of an investigation.  It makes sense that gathering relevant evidence is what helps in solving crime.

Indiscriminate data retention makes no sense.  It is a tyrannical idea and Australia's democratic Government should be ashamed of promoting it.

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