July 09, 2010

Why Even Techies aren't Immune from the Filter

Of late I have seen statements from technologically inclined individuals along the lines of:
I am not worried about the filter. Even if they put it in it will just slow things down a bit but we all know how to get around it.
At first glance this seems reasonable, after all it is true. It however ignores the fact the filter is not just a mechanism for stopping "naughty" content. The government can easily abused the filter and use it monitor attempts to access blocked content. In other words the government will be able to construct a list of "naughty" people.

You might ask
What's the problem with that? Surely having a list of people who attempted to access child porn can only be a good thing
If you are asking this question, then you have been victim to Conroy's propaganda. The filter doesn't block just child pornography, it blocks all refused classification (RC) content. At least it is suppose to. The list of websites to be blocked will not be available for scrutiny. In other words, if the filter were to block content on such controversial topics such as abortion or euthanasia you won't know until you have attempted to access such content. By then it would be too late - the government now knows you tried.

The number of ways such a list of "naughty" people can be abused is beyond counting. Suppose the police needs a few child pornography arrests to look good. They just need to go through the list looking for a few poor souls who stumbled on their internet travels. Bang! A list of people whose privacy will be thoroughly violated as the police fishes through their background looking for dirt. God help them if they have actually broke some trivial law in our complex legal system.

But wait, you say,
Isn't attempting to access refused classification material wrong?
The answer is no, unless it is child pornography. The national classification code allows adult to read, hear, and see what they want:

Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:
(a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;

RC material can not be shown, sold, and possession for the purpose of sale or display is illegal. But to consume it with in the privacy of your own home is no crime [1]. As an adult what you chose to read, hear and see is your own private business.

I am well aware this is a slippery slope argument, however I don't think it is outrageous or preposterous. Governments love to monitor what their citizens do [2], censor what they see, and control what they do. That is almost by definition. To imagine the government to pass up on abusing the filter mechanism is difficult to imagine. It would require integrity on their part, something that has been conspicuously absent thus far.

Hang on, I hear you say,
How does this affect me, who always uses an encrypted connection?
Because my dear Watson, the lack of clear text communication is in itself damning evidence to the government. It shows you are to hiding something. In next to no time they will bring out the old fallacy:
If you have done nothing wrong, what have you to hide?
Remember that Conroy is so incompetent he doesn't even know online banking is encrypted.

The bottom line is this: don't allow this invasion of our privacy the chance to snowball just because it doesn't inconvenience you (yet). Nib it in the bud.

At the next election, vote below the line and vote for the parties against the filter: the Greens [3], the Nationals [4], and if they make it in time, the Pirate Party Australia [5].

Cheers,
Steve

[1] They did try to make it a crime, but sanity prevailed. http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/Prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LA19970515003
[2] Just see how much the UK loves their surveillance, despite no evidence it actually lowers crime. 
[3] Greens might trade a rainforest or two for the filter though
[4] Nationals recently passed a motion to block any mandatory Internet filtering
[5] PPAU by definition has to block the filter.