CYBER SAFETY: Who Watches the Watchers?

 The one-way militarisation of the internet is steadily eroding some of the very freedoms that our security agencies were intended to protect. From straightforward privacy concerns to wider questions of genuine security and the integrity of a medium that holds so much promise, a healthy balance can only be struck with concerted citizen action. 


URGENT - learn more about the government's data retention proposal and how to say no HERE

"Even a simple, singular transaction, such as buying a pair of shoes online touches your bank, the merchant card processor, the retail or wholesale vendor, the shoe manufacturer, the shipping company, your Internet service provider, the company that runs or manages the ecommerce engine that makes it possible, and every technology infrastructure organization that supports them. That's a lot of opportunity for any single bit of your transaction to be stored, shared, or otherwise mis-used.
Kord Davis -

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


The internet is a vital communications medium that millions of people use to exercise rights to freedom of expression and collaboration. This geography-defying network is already playing a role in building a globally connected civil society, which has become an important part of how we confront the challenges of the 21st century.

Along with this increased connectedness, there has been a massive increase in data collection and retention, some of it reflecting intimate details of our online and offline lives. This has been used to assemble ever more detailed commercial profiles and to extend the reach of law enforcement agencies. In repressive regimes it is used to track and disrupt the work of pro-democracy campaigners and journalists - using technologies developed by a wide array of western tech companies.

Since the September 11 attacks, cyberspace has become steadily more militarised. In Australia, increasingly expansive and poorly defined surveillance powers are regularly passed through the Parliament with minimal debate.

As much as it is the Government's role to promote collective protection against identity theft, online crime and acts of political violence, we also have an expectation of privacy, freedom of expression and freedom from arbitrary acts of state coercion. As the lines between terrorism, civil disobedience and healthy dissent are deliberately blurred, Australia's security agencies and police forces have been deployed against climate change demonstrators, the occupy movement, anti-whaling campaigners and supporters of the WikiLeaks publishing organisation.

Australians have a strong tradition of standing up for free speech and freedom of association - we need to safeguard these traditions in the online environment. Here's a quick guide to what has been happening in your Parliament.

 The Telecommunications Interception and Access (TIA) Act: This legislation is amended several times a year to expand surveillance powers, to allow interception of electronic communications in the name of protecting computer networks, or in the name of resisting cybercrime or terrorism.  The TIA Act annual report showed law enforcement agencies obtained nearly a quarter of a million authorisations for access to telecommunications information in 2010-11.

Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Act 2011: Containing the notorious 'WikiLeaks amendment'. Authorised ASIO to undertake surveillance offshore in relation to Australia's economic interests, and to spy on people and organisations overseas that do not fit the current definition of "foreign powers". ASIO can collect information on Australians in foreign countries if there's a supposed impact Australia's foreign relations:  there's no need to relate to a security threat.

Cybercrime Bill 2011: currently before the Senate. Proposes to reduce the threshold for wiretaps and requires ongoing collection and retention of specific communications data. Allows for Australia to assist in prosecutions which could lead to the death penalty overseas.

Data retention: Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has called for an inquiry into reforms of security legislation to boost ASIO's powers again, and require all ISPs and phone companies to collect and store all data on their users for up to two years. All data, for all Australians, for years: every article you read online, detailed locational data collected by your phone, everyone you come into contact with, all your commercial information. Surveillance overreach doesn't come much more audacious than this.

Cyber White Paper: due end-June 2012:
examining the whole-of-government approach to cyberspace, rather the focusing specifically upon particular areas of policy

Cyberspace: "battleground of the future": on May 18 2012 the Government signed a cyber-security agreement with the United States, building on an agreement in November 2011 that undefined online attacks could be used to invoke the ANZUS treaty. 

The one-way militarisation of the internet is steadily eroding some of the very freedoms that our security agencies were intended to protect. From straightforward privacy concerns to wider questions of genuine security and the integrity of a medium that holds so much promise, a healthy balance can only be struck with concerted citizen action.

Senate inquiry into online privacy:

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