Unhappy data retention day

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

This morning, Australia’s mandatory 2 year data retention regime began. Internet activity through Australian ISPs (including mobile phone providers) is now recorded. Australians, according to Crikey, here is what is likely to be retained about your accessing this link today:

  • your name and similar identifying details on your Internet account
  • the Internet address of where you accessed Hoyden About Town from
  • the Internet address of Hoyden About Town itself
  • the date and time you accessed this site
  • how long you accessed it for (quickly, in the case of websites, no doubt, but what if you were Skyping with us?)
  • what technical services you used (HTTP over ADSL or mobile or cable or …)

If you are accessing this over a mobile device, your location is also stored, to quite a high degree of accuracy. This data is also by far the hardest to conceal using any method, since it’s revealed as a core part of your phone’s communication with cell towers.

At least the actual specific page you accessed would not (or at least need not) be retained, if I am interpreting the information at Allens and Crikey correctly.

Surveillance cameras attached to a building exterior
Surveillance, by Jonathan McIntosh CC BY-SA

Further reading:


Image credit: Surveillance by Jonathan McIntosh, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike.

Quick links: nothing to hide

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

Data retention is coming to Australia very soon.

[Data retained] includes your name, address and other identifying information, your contract details, billing and payment information. In relation to each communication, it includes the date, start and finish times, and the identities of the other parties to the communication. And it includes the location data, such as the mobile cell towers or Wi-Fi hotspots you were accessing at the time…

But surely they’ve included special protections for communications between doctors and patients, and lawyers and clients? No. Never even discussed…

The Joint Committee recommended that the Act be amended to ensure that the metadata can’t be obtained by parties in civil litigation cases (I’ve mentioned before how excited litigation lawyers will be about all this lovely new data), and George Brandis said that would be fixed in the final amendments. But it isn’t there. The final Bill being bulldozed through Parliament right now contains no such protection. The fact remains that, under the Telecommunications Act, one of the situations in which a service provider cannot resist handing over stored data is when a court has required it by issuing a subpoena. In practice, that means that your ex-spouse, former business partners, suspicious insurance company or employer can get hold of a complete digital history of your movements and communications for the past two years, and use it against you in court.

Michael Bradley, Our privacy is about to be serially infringed, The Drum, March 19 2015

Surveillance cameras attached to a building exterior
Surveillance, by Jonathan McIntosh@Flickr CC BY-SA

Noted elsewhere: all this data will be stored by various companies with varying degrees of security awareness, so in practice it will sometimes be available to some criminals too.

Elsewhere:


Image credit: Surveillance by Jonathan McIntosh, Creative Commons Atttribution-Sharealike

Federal election minus 1 day: last minute Coalition announcements special!

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

Mostly via tweeps, info on certain last minute Coalition announcements.

First, people saw the original version of The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children (original version), which read:

We will work with mobile phone companies (such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and their resellers) to develop online safety standards for smartphones and other devices with mobile network connectivity such as tablets, applicable to their use by children in two age groups: children up to the age of 12 years and teenagers.

As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve mobilephone operators installing adult content filters on phones which will be switched on as the default unless the customer proves he or she is at least 18 years of age.

The Coalition will work with internet service providers (which provide fixed line broadband services to the home) to develop online safety standards for those services, recognising that they are very often accessed by children.

As has recently been achieved in the UK, we expect these standards will involve the major internet service providers providing home network filters for all new home broadband services, which will be switched on as the default unless the customer specifies otherwise.

This is a very different approach to the discredited compulsory filter proposal championedby the Rudd-Gillard Government, which was abandoned as unworkable.

The Coalition’s approach aims to empower parents — by giving them the choice of whetheror not to operate a filter at home, but by establishing the default setting as one which provides maximum protection.

The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children original/repudiated version, page 7

The Coalition very quickly backed away from this proposal:

Mr Turnbull quickly released a statement to clarify the Coalition’s position.

“The Coalition has never supported mandatory internet filtering. Indeed, we have a long record of opposing it,” the statement said.

Malcolm Turnbull’s statement is available in full on the Liberals’ site. The revised and/or correct version of the policy (depending on if you believe that they did accidentally make an early version public), reads:

Wewill work with mobile phone companies (such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and their resellers) and internet service providers (which provide fixed line broadband services to the home) to make available software which parents can choose to install on their own devices to protect their children from inappropriate material.

This is a very different approach to the discredited compulsory filter proposal championed by the Rudd-Gillard Government, which was abandoned as unworkable.

The Coalition’s Policy to Enhance Online Safety for Children current version (as linked from the Liberals’ policy listing), page 7

Moving on to last minute announcements they haven’t backed away from:

A Coalition Government, if elected, will crack down on Labor’s addiction to waste by auditing increasingly ridiculous research grants and reprioritising funding through the Australian Research Council (ARC) to deliver funds to where they’re really needed.

Some of the grants issued by the ARC in recent years have been, frankly, completely over the top.

There will be no reduction in research funding. In fact, the Coalition has announced new research into dementia and diabetes.

The Coalition would look to targeting those ridiculous research grants that leave taxpayers scratching their heads wondering just what the Government was thinking.

Taxpayer dollars have been wasted on projects that do little, if anything, to advance Australians research needs. For example:

  • The quest for the ‘I’ – a$595,000 grant aimed at “reaching a better understanding of the self”;
  • $160,000 on an examination of “sexuality in Islamic interpretations of reproductive health technologies in Egypt”;
  • a $443,000 study into “The God of Hegel’s Post-Kantian idealism”; and
  • $164,000 for a study into “how urban media art can best respond to global climate change” .

Ending More of Labor’s Waste, Liberal press release, September 5 2013

(My Honours supervisor is out there jumping for joy at the punctation used for that list, at least.)

Several research and research-affiliated groups have denounced the policy:

  • Jeannie Rea, National Office, The National Tertiary Education Union: This is a direct attack on the academic freedom of researchers working in Australian universities. If Tony Abbott wins, independent research loses.
  • Catriona Jackson, CEO, Science and Technology Australia:

    Specific research projects – all in the arts and social sciences – have been labeled increasingly ridiculous. But scientists know that the flow of new knowledge is critical to the kinds of real word results that all Australians are proud of, and that the Coalition is calling for.

    It was CSIRO scientist John O’Sullivan’s search for exploding black holes that led to his discovery of wireless technology that has swept the world, and earned Australia $500 million in royalties with probably as much again to come.

You can also review STA’s overview of science policy for the Federal Election, if interested. The Conversation has a couple of pieces about the policy, one noting that we already have a body of expert scrutineers who reject any number of bad and merely only very good grant proposals, and we call it the Australian Research Council, and the other analysing the craftiness of the press release itself.

What else have you seen sneaking in under the radar now that the advertising blackout is in place?


Front page image credit: Election Day CC BY-SA David Morgan-Mar, from the 2007 Federal election.

Federal Election minus 3 days: state surveillance and anti-terror policies

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

Continuing on my theme of finally becoming the voter who actually reviews policies, today we go a bit more niche: state surveillance, anti-terror provisions and similar, specifically whether anti-terror is used as an excuse to infringe on civil liberties and political organising. I’m going into this expecting it to be fairly short — it’s a bigger issue in the United States and the UK than here (or perhaps I know more activists there than here), where “border protection” serves some of the same rhetorical and political roles — although there are minor parties more interested in these issues.

As with other posts in this series, if there’s a lack of commentary in the post, make up for it in the comments. For media coverage, spin and personality issues — or general news! — head to the latest Media Circus thread instead.)

ALP, Coalition, Greens

The Liberal’s Real Solutions has no mention of ‘surveillance’ or ‘privacy’. Their terrorism statement is that they will increase measures, focussing on security of ports: We will deliver improved counter-terrorism and domestic security measures in Australia and secure our ports and airports. .They mention increased CCTV rollouts in their crime section (pg 42), none of which suggests that privacy and surveillance issues are a big issue for them. They also seem inclined to use the threat of terrorist immigration as an anti-refugee tactic, see eg this June press release.

In June 2013, Malcolm Turnbull issued a statement expressing some concern about the NSA’s PRISM program, particularly its implications for commercial interests, presumably Australian businesses hosting data on US servers. (I note incidentally that Real Solutions is hosted on Amazon Web Services. It’s just a curio since Real Solutions is public information, but I wonder if political parties host their donor databases and such on Australian servers?) If you search for the text of that statement on technical news sites, incidentally, the advertisements may encourage you to apply for a job with ASIO.

It’s difficult to find ALP information. They assert a right to privacy (National Platform, items 41 and 42, pages 186–187), largely centered around privacy of data held by the government, especially health information and credit information. They assert that [Labor will] ensure that personal information of Australians transferred overseas is protected which I find difficult to interpret (if nothing else, the phrasing is rather ambiguous between personal information being sent overseas and Australians themselves being sent!). Elsewhere in the National Platform, they write:

Labor refuses to manipulate fear or racism for political gain in response to terror. Australia needs tough laws to deal with terrorism but, just as importantly, we need well-balanced laws that target the terrorists, not innocent citizens. We need strong safeguards to protect the civil and human rights that are fundamental to our freedoms. Labor is committed to finalising the review of the Anti-Terrorism Legislation.

item 132, page 209

I don’t see that translated into policy for the present campaign anywhere.

The Greens have a specific surveillance policy generally affirming a right to privacy. They seek to bring telecommunications surveillance back under the control of normal judicial warrants, and subject to Freedom of Information requests; they want intelligence sharing with the “5 Eyes” countries (the other four are the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand) overhauled; and they oppose proposals for data retention concerning Australian’s Internet use.

See also Electronic Frontiers Australia Election 2013 scorecard.

Smaller parties

From a slightly haphazard collection on Monday, I focus today on minor parties that I know to have some interest in civil liberties and/or digital rights.

Pirate Party

Privacy is listed as one of the four major civil liberties they value. They oppose both the proposed 2 year retention of Australian’s Internet use data, and denounse PRISM and PRISM-like programs.

Wikileaks Party

As one would expect, this is a prominent issue in their campaign platform:

… the WikiLeaks Party will be fearless in its opposition to the creeping surveillance state, driven by globalised data collection and spying agencies, both state and corporate controlled. We will demand that all information on data seizure and storage of citizens’ data by government agencies and allied corporations be made public.

In addition, there’s a specific Surveillance and your privacy policy requiring that agencies seek a warrant to spy on your Internet usage; a twice-yearly tabling of aggregate figures related to such surveillance; and ASIO and anyone else cooperating with overseas agencies to report such cooperation publicly.


Front page image credit: Election Day CC BY-SA David Morgan-Mar, from the 2007 Federal election.

When your misdeeds are archived

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers. It’s the last for this round.

This one is actually from me, it’s related to some questions I’ve been asked by various people who will remain anonymous (and who didn’t formally write to Ask a Geek Feminist). I have my own thoughts on this, and I also think it can vary (helpful!)

What do you think people and groups should do about sexism in their “archives”? By this, I mean for example, older stuff on their blog, or Facebook postings from years ago, or similar? A lot of people have sexism in their past, varying from “I used to be a pretty committed sexist actually” to “um, I didn’t really think about it, and I wanted to fit in, and I went through a ‘Your Mom’ phase for a while there”. Things you do on the Internet are pretty long-lived now, and your sexism sticks to your name while it remains visible.

Assuming someone or someones have control of their content, and they have sexism they don’t like in there, and they have reason to think it’s going to hurt someone. Should they remove the content? Should they edit it with warnings and apologies?

Have you seen this in a real situation? What did they do? How did it work for them and for women near them/involved in their community?

At least for systemic stuff, I tend to be on the ‘edit’ side of the fence. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. even if you’ve totally changed and are ashamed and sorry, being a reformed sexist is something that may make people, women in particular, cautious about you. Living with that is part of the deal. You don’t get to get access to Has Always Been The Best Person Ever cred because you weren’t.
  2. it also serves as a guide to How To Do It, for other reforming sexists (or How Not To Do It, if you apologise but don’t actually change)

And while writing an apology that is short and not self-serving is a challenge, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try.

On the other hand, I, in general, do wish that much informal discussion on the Internet yellowed and started to curl at the edges and be difficult to read as time passed, sometimes. I realise that the invention of writing was some considerable time ago now, but even so, having to stand by your casual thoughts for years is a big ask. I can’t see that one should make a special effort to preserve evidence of one’s sexism if that same set of archives is going to disappear in its entirety.

On being X-ish

Now that I have described how I graduated into Generation X, I have a secret to confess: I’m starting to think that that might not be entirely wrong.

Let’s stick to cohort effects here, since it’s supposed to be a cohort term. And I should add that this is all very trivial stuff, I’m focussing on media, pop culture and technology experiences.

One of the major temptations of identifying as Generation Y had to do with pop culture. My teenage years were just past the wave of slackers and grunge and Seattle. I probably heard Nirvana’s music during Kurt Cobain’s lifetime, but I didn’t know of them as a thing until about a year after he died. I’ve never even seen Reality Bites, but Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder are both 10 years older than I am, and their movies weren’t about my cohort.

I am, frankly, Spice Girls age: not the pre-teen thrilled girls waving things to be signed, but the teenagers who actually paid for the albums with their own money. (I didn’t, for reference. We were a Garbage family.) Britney Spears was born in the same year as me, and her biggest year career-wise was my first year of university. And obviously, when the term “Generation Y” was coined, the stereotypes of late university/early career certainly fit my friends better than the Generation X tags with managerial aspirations. The return of cool people listening to cheesy pop: Y-ish. So that was where I felt I fell. (In case anyone I knew at high school drops by: I realise I wasn’t cool. But you may have been, and don’t think I didn’t notice you danced to the Spice Girls.)

But then, there’s certainly a few small societal boundaries between me and people who were born in 1986. (I have a sister born in 1986, and thinking about the five years between us is often telling.) Starting at a global level, I was reading Tony Judt’s Postwar recently (recommended, I’ll come back to it here at some point), and I was struck because I remember 1989.

To be fair, that’s more important if one lives in Europe, which I never have, but most of my first detailed memories of newsworthy events have to do with the revolutions of 1989 and the 1990 Gulf War. I remember the USSR, again, from the perspective of a young child who was growing up in Australia, but still. I can read the science fiction people smirk about now, the fiction with the USA and USSR facing off in 2150, and remember, a little bit, what that was actually about. This is, well, frankly, more than a little X-ish.

While we’re talking about defining events, I recall that quite a lot of people talked about the children who won’t remember 9/11. (And by children, I now mean 15 year olds, of course.) Obviously this is more important in the USA, perhaps a little like the European children (by which I mean 25 year olds) who don’t remember 1989 in Europe. I obviously remember 2001, and moreover remember the geopolitical situation in the years before it quite vividly too, and that latter is again, more than a touch X-ish.

Turning to technology, which is fairly defining for me, we’ll start with Douglas Adams:

Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Leaving aside the age effect where shortly everything cool will be against the natural order of things, it’s noticeable to me that the Web and email and so on fall in the “can probably get a career in it” bracket for me. Well, obviously not truly (the first version of the SMTP specification, which still more or less describes how email works today, was published in 1982), but my late teenage years were exactly the years when suddenly a lot of Australian consumers were on the ‘net. Hotmail was founded when I was 15 and I got an address there the following year. (icekween@, the address has been gone since 1999 and I’ve never used that handle since, partly because even in 98/99 it was always taken. But, actually, for a 16 year old’s user name I still think that was fairly OK considering some of the alternatives.)

In short, it was all happening in prime “get a career in it” time for me, and not coincidentally I am at the tail end of the huge boom in computer science enrolments and graduates that came to a giant sudden stop about two years after I finished. Frankly, X-ish. My youngest sister and her friends didn’t get excited about how they were going to become IT managers and have luxury yachts as a matter of course. (Well, partly age and partly not being jerks, there.) It’s a lot harder to get the “just a natural part of the way the world works” people excited about it.

Diagnosis: tailing X.

Chat script for Exetel 3G

While trying to work out what was up with Wii error 32022, I was seeing if using our Exetel 3G dongle (rather than DSL) would let us update. This means that I got reasonable working PPP chatscripts for Exetel 3G.

/etc/ppp/peers/exetel-3g:

 /dev/ttyUSB0 ipparam exetel1 230400 noauth defaultroute connect "/usr/sbin/chat -v -f /etc/chatscripts/exetel-3g" 

/etc/chatscripts/exetel-3g:

 ABORT 'BUSY' ABORT 'NO CARRIER' ABORT 'ERROR' "" AT OK AT&F OK ATD*99***1# CONNECT "" 

These are an unholy combination of ideas from Ubuntu Living and etbe, since I am about 5 years too young to have had to learn the Hayes command set as a requirement to get on the ‘net. (Well, a year too young perhaps, Andrew knows it.)

Setting up network address translation is left as an exercise for the reader.

Why microblog when you can IRC?

I’ve been meaning to answer Glyph for a while:

Maybe the reason I don’t “get” this Twitter thing is I’ve been using IRC for much the same purpose for a decade, and the UI is better.

Finally I have an excuse, that is, I wrote it up in someone else’s blog comments and can just lift it and edit it here. I have a feeling that I am cheating by using more than 140 characters though.

Advantages of microblogging over IRC:

  • it’s easier to find out where the cool kids are playing; (Do you think Stephen Fry or even Sarah Haskins would tell me where their IRC channels of choice are? Me neither.)
  • I do not sign up for a whole ‘channel’ in its entirety, with an entire social group, ongoing conversations and complicated social conventions in order to microblog; and
  • it’s not real-time. I am basically the person email was designed for. I do not real-time. Even people I talk to when forced can vouch for this.

Bonus advantage over Facebook status updates: following my microblog does not require that we are friends, or even ‘friends’. You can just read them. I do not thereby have to share my high school graduation date and pictures of my hypothetical cat with you. (That said, I am now going to create a Facebook album entitled ‘my hypothetical cat’.)

Disadvantages of microblogging over IRC:

  • yeah, the clients suck;
  • when I do get in a conversation with someone(s) I am limited to 140 character messages (plus boring any onlookers), or figuring out how to switch media; and
  • the overhead of a social group and ongoing conversations do have some benefits: I’m more likely to admire someone’s wit and insight from IRC (or their blog) than from Twitter or identi.ca.