A severe issue with Australia’s proposed mandatory filtering system

If 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 Life.

Now if that doesn’t get you thinking about hustling over to talk to your local MP or Senator, I’m not sure quite what will.

8 thoughts on “A severe issue with Australia’s proposed mandatory filtering system”

  1. As for the ‘how’ of contacting your parliamentary members, and the ‘who to contact’…
    http://www.aph.gov.au/whoswho/index.htm is the who’s who of the current government.

    You will want to contact
    * every senator who represents your state
    * the house of representatives member for your electorate(1)
    * the minister and shadow minister for Broadband, Telecommunications & the digital economy(2)
    * the members who represent the minister and shadow minister in the other house(2)

    (You can send all these people the same letter, just printing off multiple copies/cut-and-pasting into the email. That’s okay.)

    If the sheer number of people to contact bothers you, just choose however many of these you wish. But do contact ONE, at least.

    You can use whatever format you want: email, phone call, paper letter. A paper letter will make more impact than an email or a phone call – the Ministers know that it’s more inconvenient to actually send a paper letter than an email or phone call, so they value them more highly. They figure someone who’s taken the trouble to send a paper letter REALLY cares about the issue.

    Do not copy this post verbatim – instead, rephrase the ideas into your own words. If they get a bunch of identical letters they tend to assume ‘spam’. If they get a lot of different letters stated in different ways that raise the same concerns, they are more likely to actually believe they’re affecting us, the voters.

    Keep the topic to this one issue and the concerns you have about it – if you have multiple issues to raise with a minister, send multiple letters/emails. They tend to file the letters issue by issue, and it’s a lot easier for them if each letter they get from you is about one issue. Effective lobbying requires making it convenient for the minister to read your concerns.

    Don’t try to be horribly formal and correct. Listening to us is part of their job. Just write it as clearly as you can. If you need to, think of it as writing comments on a blog. 🙂

    Now scoot, look up your electorate, and start writing! 🙂

    (1) find your electorate here: http://apps.aec.gov.au/esearch/

    (2) The homepages for the minister, shadow minister, and other-house-reps for those ministers are:
    Senator Conroy Minister
    Senator Minchin Shadow Minister

    Anthony Albanese MP Minister representing the Minister of ….
    Bruce Billson MP Shadow Minister representing the Shadow Minister of ….

  2. Ok..let us take this through step by step. Let me first say I am against the blocking of SL.
    This post alleges “far more dire problems”. Let’s follow that link.
    I assume then you you are referring to the statement that ” it concentrates extraordinary powers on whoever is to actually run it. It allows the surveillance of the Internet activities”
    This statement follows a link to the Government page that refers to the filtering proposition. NOWHERE does it state that there will be surveillance or logging of sites visited. It only refers to filtering of specific URL’s
    Therefore you are raising the red flag on an unsubstantiated “Opinion” of another blog, who’s own link does not substantiate such a statement.
    Your second link also refers to an older post that makes bald statements of opinion as if they are fact For example, that post links to another that assumes that games that have not been classified are deemed to be “refused classification”. Again, not true.
    While I think it important that citizens of Australia be able to voice their concerns regarding this proposal to their senators or local members, It is doing them a disservice by promulgating half truths and outright disinformation.

  3. You see, I used to work in the Web-filtering industry in Australia, and the article that I’m linking to there is actually, in essence, correct. The browsing data, whether blocked or unblocked is available (actually some few technicians maybe unavoidably exposed to it. It happens). There are no safeguards specified for that system.

    Right now, our respective ISPs have access to our browsing activities at will, should they so desire it. Having access to everyone’s browsing activity by dint of a centralized system that is accessing everyone’s browser activity in order to match it against block-lists, is a serious concern, because that data will be logged. Nobody would deploy such a system without that.

    Who has access to the filtering units, and those logs? Someone *must* have — if something goes wrong, the activity must be checked, perhaps back for weeks or months. What safeguards would there be to limit the misuse of that data?

    Working in the filtering industry, I was exposed (regrettably unavoidably) to the browsing activities of more than a million users. And I know personally, how easy it is to identify a single user from that stream of data. Programmes of fault-correction required it at various times.

  4. Oh, and you’re quite right, games that have not been classified are not nearly the same thing as a game that is Refused Classification. It’s just an unfortunate coincidence of terms that rather tends to confuse people.

  5. Connie:

    “This statement follows a link to the Government page that refers to the filtering proposition. NOWHERE does it state that there will be surveillance or logging of sites visited.”

    Most people are not tech-geeks. Most tech-geeks have not worked for filtering services. It is unlikely that whoever is running the government page, or whoever is writing the legislation, is aware of the problem at all.

    In other words, the most likely reason the government page doesn’t talk about logging is that noone in government has actually thought about logging.

    “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. ”

    I have worked in the filtering industry as well. Aggregate log data is very, very important when it comes to providing decent filtering services – and aggregate data is acquired from individual, personal data.

    IF Australia does want ‘net filtering, then the specification of the filtering system MUST (not ‘should’, but ‘MUST’) be extremely specific and extremely careful about converting individual log data to aggregate BEFORE any human is able to see it.
    And then the code must be checked as carefully as any banking or gambling system.
    It will be expensive. It is likely to be error prone. It is vulnerable to man-in-the-middle data tapping attacks.

    But if we’re not going to hand over the blackmail keys to our government to whichever company wins the contract, it must be done.

    Or we could just do away with compulsory filtering altogether. Let libraries, schools and parents use whatever filtering they deem necessary for their children/the children of their communities.
    Let adults who choose to, filter themselves under their own criteria.
    Heck, if it’s deemed necessary, provide subsidised filtering as an option.
    But I want a free press, free speech, and the right to go to goatse if I really want to burn my eyeballs out with offensive imagery.

    And – and this is not a side issue – I don’t want to hand the blackmail keys to my government to someone I don’t know. Heck, I wouldn’t want them in the hands of some of the people I DO know!

  6. “Techs” may have been exposed to the webhabits of people..but that does not mean that the logging of these habits for surveillance purposes is to be mandated in legislation. And if aggregate data is ALREADY being used for other purposes, then the cat is already out of the bag on that score. I am sure there are privacy agreements within any organization that does work where the person is exposed to private information such as home addresses, and passing of such info onto third parties and legislation that secures such private data. I have worked myself in such a capacity and there we had rules in place that forbade the use of private information we had access to. A completely different issue.
    Sashat has raised the conspiracy flag that..just cos they haven’t thought of it, doesn’t mean the won’t log activity for later surveillance of peoples web habits. While I am not spook, I’m willing to bet that privacy and other legislation that covers electronic survellance would also include email and website visits.
    Come on people..pull on your undies and get some perspective here
    However, the Govt WAS elected on which one of its platforms WAS to filter out child pornography. I agree with Sashat that the most sensible and cost effective solution is that filtering is best done at the local computer level.
    From what I can see so far..the whole issue that is front and center was that SL would be blocked, and as far as I can see, there is no reason to believe that will be happening anytime soon. All the suppositions and opinions expressed in some articles and blogs, and then taken as FACT in others, without even any checking, can be seen for what it is, fearmongering

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