Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?

There aren’t many places in the world where you can openly accuse the nation’s top police and intelligence agencies of having an attitude problem, as I did on Monday, without being visited by the men in the van with the canvas sack. Which is a good thing.

In this week’s Patch Monday podcast, embedded immediately below for your convenience and CBS Interactive’s traffic logging, I departed from the usual format to present a personal opinion.

Data retention for law enforcement is one of the most important political issues relating to our use of the internet now and as far into the future as we care to imagine, I said, and it’s being mishandled.

The Australian government’s current one-page working definition (PDF) of what constitutes communications metadata (which can be requested by law enforcement agencies without a warrant) as opposed to communications content (which generally does require a warrant) is, to anyone with a technical understanding of how the internet actually works and is evolving, virtual gibberish.

“Dangerously immature” is how I described it.

I also raised three points where I think the version of reality being promoted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is wrong.

  • This is a push for more power. We conduct so much more of our lives online than we ever did on the phone, and that means the balance of power is changing. We need to have a conversation about this.
  • The AFP says quite specifically that they’re not after our web browsing activity, but I don’t see how the working document supports that argument. And other agencies, including the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), are after that stuff.
  • ASIO and the AFP constantly talk about the powers being needed to catch the terrorists and pedophiles. But the law will probably be modelled on the current law for the phone, which provides access to communication metadata to many other agencies with far less stringent accountability rules for many other, far less serious, crimes.

Please have a listen and tell me what you think.

Play

The podcast stands on its own, but I want to emphasise the thing that still disturbs me…

Continue reading “Insulted, ASIO? That’s not really the problem, surely?”

Freedom of Information panel, orderly and disorderly

On Tuesday 21 Wednesday 29 February 2012 I’m on the panel for “Freedom of information?”, presented by the Recordkeeping Roundtable.

The promo sayeth:

In a connected world where information sharing is easier and has more impact than ever before, is the current framework of FOI, information security, privacy and archives laws and practices delivering the information society needs in a timely and appropriate way? This panel discussion will be about:

  • assessing the effectiveness of current information access and security laws and methods — are they hopelessly broken?
  • the culture of secrecy and withholding by government agencies
  • how technology and activism offer those with the skills and motivation some alternative and very powerful ways to access and reveal information, and
  • what can be done to address the current state of things and move to better ways of making information available when and where it’s needed.

I think I’ll be rabbiting on about the internet and stuff. Information security, digital distribution, authentication of records, WikiLeaks, Anonymous. That sort of thing.

My fellow panelists are former diplomat Dr Philip Dorling, who now leads the journalistic pack in FOI stuff; and Tim Robinson, Manager, Archives and Records Management Services at the University of Sydney. The moderator is Cassie Findlay, Recordkeeping Roundtable co-founder and digital archivist.

It’s at the Australian Technology Park, Redfern, Sydney, and doors open at 5.30pm for a 6.00pm start. It wraps at 7.30pm for dinner. Admission is $5 and you should probably register.

[Update 16 February: Date changed to 29 February, as Dr Dorling must alas attend a funeral on the original date.]

Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum 2011 videos

I should have posted this a few days back, but the videos from the Microsoft Politics and Technology Forum 2011 in Canberra have been posted at GovTech, the Microsoft Australia Government Affairs Blog.

For some reason the audio quality on these recordings is rubbish. I’ll let you know if better versions are ever posted.

The keynote was given by leading UK political blogger Iain Dale. The other panellists were Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister; Joe Hockey MP, Shadow Treasurer; Dr Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania; Microsoft’s Gianpaolo Carraro; and yours truly. The moderator was Mark Pesce.

You can also listen to my interview with Iain Dale, should you be so inclined.

Continue reading “Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum 2011 videos”

Early flight to Canberra

A brief reminder: I’m about to head to Canberra for a couple of days. This morning I’ll be at the University of Canberra for the seminar Privacy and security in a connected world: anonymity, data loss, tracking and the social web, being organised by their new Centre for Internet Safety. And then tomorrow morning I’ll be at Parliament House for the Microsoft Politics & Technology Forum. I do have some free time in the afternoons if you want to catch up.