Tuesday 3 August 2010

if censoring debate is the actual policy make sure yours is an informed vote

Do you trust the current Australian Government to protect and guard you and your rights as an Australian citizen? This is of course one of the many questions all duly enrolled Australian citizens will ask themself come August the 21st as we again participate as voters in a the federal election. Our politicians are our elected representatives and are empowered to act on the counties and her people’s behalf and in casting a vote for one candidate over another should be indicative of the implicit trust that they will do just that, but do they? I think the current government is failing its people in the critically important area of information technology, yes we have the National Broadband Plan and although I question the need for this type of government intervention the prognosis from the tech sectors and the journalists who specialize in this area is that it is a good thing so I will take that as a given. No I am worried by two areas of policy in particular and the unintended consequences that these may have on all Australians if implemented.

Censorship and privacy are two areas that are of great concern to me, these things can easily be abused and thus governments should always tread lightly when introducing legislation and policy as it is not always their original intention that is the actual outcome. Following the recent debacle that was the debate over the censoring of the Australian Internet or the Australian arm of it so to speak and the postponement of this policy until after the next federal election came news that the Australian government was consulting with the internet industry over another proposal, to require ISPs to spy on its users and record all of their activity while on the internet. Maybe I am being little too harsh so how about this explanation that they are contemplating the idea of having ISP’s store and record certain internet activities of all Australians that may be acquired while they use the internet, this will be done to aid law-enforcement agencies if the need arises to access certain data of an Australian suspected of a crime. I would really like to be more specific but details of this proposal are kind of sketchy you see all the participants in the consolation have been sworn to secrecy. I really don’t like when governments keep secrets call me na├»ve but I thought that politicians should be accountable to us the people the people who voted them in to government in the first instance and that keeping us in the dark although obviously a useful defence against criticism was counter intuitive to the whole elected representative type scenario we call democracy.

All is not lost however we do have freedom of information laws that allow us to partition the relevant government body to publically release documents that it is believed that are in the public interest for us to see. This is usually done by the news organizations and the press and reported in the mainstream media, the government bodies do however have some recourse to remove sensitive information that they believe is not in the public interest. Which brings me to this little gem as reported in the Melbourne Age full details here

The federal government has censored approximately 90 per cent of a secret document outlining its controversial plans to snoop on Australians' web surfing, obtained under freedom of information (FoI) laws, out of fear the document could cause "premature unnecessary debate".

This is the most outrageous form of political censorship of debate that I have ever witnessed, this is more akin to our Chinese neighbours however even they would not insult our intelligence and release it at all. Again it may be my naivety coming to the fore but I thought that government was meant to encourage debate not aim to suppress it however I hope this abuse of FOI does exactly the opposite.I find it I would say amusing, however scary is probably more appropriate that Communications minster Senator Conroy the elected representative that is the minister responsible of Information Technology once is a rebut of Google for their data collection issues that he lashed out at and accused the internet giant of the single biggest breach of privacy in history and yet another government department is not only not accidently proposing to do but intending to do this but to do so deliberately and without even letting the people they are supposed to protect participate in the debate. This tactic is not unique at all and a similar strategy is being pursued with the ACTA negotiation, arstechnica has further details on that here so I really should not be surprised.

I have to take it on good faith that this government if re-elected will not abuse its powers and introduce draconian laws that will not only censor the internet but if the way debate is encouraged by them is any indication without any openness or consultation with the people it will impact. The other scary thing is I don’t know if the other side of the political landscape is proposing to do the same as they are not really talking. My dilemma no doubt but if you’re an Australian resident yours as well, I not going to tell any one how to vote come August the 21st however I would ask that you at least ponder the impact that full data retention and censorship of the internet might have on you and if the unintended consequences as worth it.

What do you think? Are you worried about censorship and privacy? Leave me a comment as usual love to hear your opinions after all fair is fair you have just read mine.

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