Enters The Digital Age – not!

Most of you know I work in the Information Security area. You probably also know I am passionate about Australia. However, this post is not about the technical ineffectiveness of the technologies that have been proposed (which I will write later). This is more about the method in which the Australian Government is pursuing the implementation of those ineffective technologies. Yet another example of Australia – The Nanny State (funnily enough, which is the complete opposite of the culture of the Australian People).

For those of you who don’t know (and, given the lack of reporting in the mainstream media about the subject, I wouldn’t be suprised), the Australian Government is currently undergoing trials to enforce filtering of “illegal and objectionable material” at the Australian ISP level. What does this mean in practice? They want to filter your internet access using methods that just don’t work, just like the governments of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and many others do – but without the people to validate what is being filtered properly.

Remember, this is the same population of civil “servents” that has made it illegal for you, the Australian citizen, to purchase fireworks without having to physically travel to Canberra. Which, of course, is punishment in itself.

The policy will be enforced by two levels of blacklists – one of which is mandatory for all internet connections, the other is an “opt out” for those who need their fix of “restricted’ online porn, up to R18 level. However, even the Government’s own trials have shown a shockingly high false-positive rate, which means that the filters have incorrectly filtered innocent information even using the deep-packet-inspection technology that is quite advanced compared to the URL-and-IP-address-blocking that you are used to when trying to get to Facebook from your work desk (and you already know how to get around that, don’t you?)

ACMA have not detailed the governence around this “solution”. And where does it stop? What will stop Big Media (the Music and Movie industries) from lobbying – hard – to block all technologies used to distribute files online, because they *might* be used to distribute Rhianna’s latest album? (Hint: get the videos instead, she is gorgeous).  What else will they add? Any websites or people critical of Government policies, similar to the Freedom Fries debacle of the US Government when France refused, correctly I might add, to support the invasion of Iraq based upon failed intelligence about WMDs? Given the Australian Government’s useless performance at yesterdays climate change talks, I wouldn’t be suprised that most environmental groups suddenly have their websites filtered due to lobbying by the Resources sector.

I tried to make an argument on the government’s consultation blog about this, but must admit I got into one of my infamous rants that also included Telstra’s ablility to slow down the information economy. But I was also happy to see that many other Australians have found the blog and submitted similar messages. Many more have also signed petitions and will be attending protests in each Australian Capital tomorrow (Saturday).

Prime Minister Rudd, I voted for you because I thought you would bring much-needed change to Australia. The Apology, and signing Kyoto were very good starts. But your Government’s recent actions – the lack of them in particular with regards to Climate Change, the lack of action against the Japanese slaughter of whales in Australian oceans, and of course the Great Australian Firewall – is starting to make me think that the other lot wern’t so bad after all. It is true that Australians do NOT have any freedom of speech protections – something I think you should fix and protect our freedoms just like every other democracy. As a fellow Queenslander I don’t want to stop supporting you, but you are making that a difficult position to maintain.

BTW – With regards to the Child Porn issue. I do not condone this. I would happily work with the Australian Government (contact me) on addressing this issue. My personal view is to set up a dedicated unit in the AFP (or similar) tackling this issue, to monitor, gather evidence, capture and prosecute each and every single cretin who is involved with this. I alledge (got that lawyers, I alledge – I don’t have proof!) you guys already have the technologies to do this, and in fact are already doing this, (example here), for National Security interests. Why not leverage the same technologies, resources and do something similar in the non-classified environment?

Back to the Child Pornogrophers … once these bastards are found guilty in a court of law, based upon the evidence collected asbove, I propose they are castrated – without anasthetic any medical support – using blunt, rusted, metal knives and left to rot in a cell. That is the minimum punishment that these sick bastards deserve. Lets stop this problem at the source.