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The Forum > Article Comments > Someone else might be listening > Comments

Someone else might be listening : Comments

By George Williams and David Hume, published 29/3/2006

New proposals for surveillance powers just go too far: government should think again.

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The spectre of 'Big Brother' is always unsettling. No one wants the anyone to intrude in their private life. I would certainly not want cameras and microphones in my shower!

But David is not suggesting this. His article states that "The Bill will allow the government to read our private emails, SMSs and other stored communications, without our knowledge".

The truth is that, at least for international traffic, they have been doing this for years. Echelon was a collaborative Western Governments eavesdropping system that flagged key words on voice and data communication for later inspection by Intelligence Agencies.

Thanks to David, it is now "With our Knowledge"!!

I'm sure that the bad-guys have already worked out sets of coded phrases to out-wit the government anyway. Simple example would be using the phase "G'day Mate" instead of "Hello Mate". The first may mean "They're onto me, stay low", the second may be "Proceed as planned", and "Hi Mate" might mean "Do Nothing".

David's assertion stems from an assumption that telephone SMS broadcasts and the Internet are private communications. Since when did the internet become private? As soon as you log into the Internet you may as well be yelling from the roof-tops. We may take measures to help protect our privacy, but as soon as you send an email, browse a web page, or even chat - you are out there. Everyone, including OLO, now has to confirm your email, even the free email accounts need a valid ISP provided address.

Like the overwealming majority of Australians, I have absolutely nothing to hide. I'm sure the government doesn't have enough staff to monitor all the boring emails that I may produce, "How's your mum?, What's the weather like? blah blah blah".
Posted by Narcissist, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 10:03:01 AM
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It took 2 people to write that!

Williams and Hume must have something to hide. 99.9% of us have nothing to hide, and anyone who thinks he or she, as innocent people, will be subject to any surveillance has a severe case of big-headeness. ASIO doesn't have the resources or time to listen in to any more conversations than it absoultely has to.

If 'innocent' people who just happen to be speaking to or emailing a person of interest to the security services is also dragged into the net, well, stagger me! Anyone who associates with a criminal now, knowingly or unknowingly, is automatically checked out. If they are innocent, they have nothing to worry about.

This is just another lefty beat up.
Posted by Leigh, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 10:06:29 AM
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I totally understand the logic of their arguments, and they are correct if one ignores context, which one clearly can't do.

The western world's reckless immigration programs have given rise to a situation - due to their improper & weak screening, where we have those from uncivilised cultures now living among us, those who are nothing short of NAZI's (although worse because how they see themselves as superior is bizarre, wheraes one can see how the Germans perhaps thought they were in WW2. They had culture, real culture, not superficial gunk of a particular plate of food & a dress or a dance, they had philosophers, scientists, artists, entertainment, and were at the forefront of all these areas. They're only problem is that they got carried away with aesthetics, it's not what colour you are, or whether you think white people look more attractive, it's what your culture is, what your values are) with their views on becoming an Islamic state.

Now, although most Muslims are content just to wish for Sharia law to be imposed here (as Muslims believe Sharia is divinely inspired & must be taken to the whole earth), there are some Muslims who really do adhere to their religion to the letter and wish to destroy non-Muslims.

Phones need to be tapped, emails monitored, and while this could be used against the people by an unscroupolous authority, this is the price we must pay for having uncivilised beings among us.

Japan, for example, will never need to worry about this as they don't have an immigration program.

I think the laws don't go far enough, I think all mosques should be monitored, legally or illegally, and I believe homes of prominent Muslim leaders should be bugged - to get their "real" thoughts, although we know these anyway from comments they have made in the media, such as Keysar Trad saying Australians are convict scum.
Posted by Benjamin, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 12:39:25 PM
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The issue isn't about whether you have anything to hide, the issue is whether authorities ought to have the power to poke about in your affairs without a substantial reason to do so.

Most people assume that their communications with another person are private - particularly where it is a one-to-one conversation - regardless of *how* that conversation is conducted. To discover that someone has been 'listening in' on those conversations usually results in a strong feeling of violation. Certainly thats the experience of everyone I know who has either been subjected to surveillance of some kind, or colleagues who have also had clients who were subjected to surveillance.

There is a fine line between state security and state curiosity, with plenty of scope on the legitimate security interests side of the ledger for authorities to work with. The concern for lawyers is the potential not only for misuse of surveillance, but equally for the integrity of legal and judicial processes themselves.
Posted by maelorin, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 12:56:43 PM
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I haven't posted in this forum for ages because I wasn't interested in the muslim v's non-muslim debate.

It's managed to rear it's head in here again and at first I thought "it's irrelevant", but then I realised that the fear generated by the Government on the public about terrorism from Muslims enables the Government to justify its ever-increasing powers and coverage of BigBrotherism.

Benjamim - Big Brother is rubbing his hands together with glee whenever he reads blogs like yours. You are feeding a big fat over-fed paranoid monster that one day will turn around and gobble you up. You are obviously prepared to "pay the price" by forfeiting your privacy - it's easy to say if you're paranoid and scared about everything anyway. You have nothing to lose.

It's the insidious way this "surveillance" has crept into our lives. It's been a slow gradual process of us accepting it, little by little. Even to the point of having a defeatist attitude that if we've got nothing to hide, then it's nothing to worry about. Well we might as well all walk around naked then. Stuff the old personal space & privacy.

It's true that the "bad guys" will only work out a way around it. That won't change. All the new legislation will do is provide the means to make them more sneaky about it.

I know a guy whose job is to "vet" emails in and out of his organisation. He doesn't like doing it because it involves reading his co-workers emails which, even though may not be private, is still voyeuristic. However, he does it because it's legal and it's his job.

No doubt if we continue to be complacent about this issue, then one day it'll be ok to listen in to your colleague's telephone conversations and read their text messages. And no doubt someone will try and tell me that's it's all for the security of our country and that I should have to accept it if I have nothing to hide.
Posted by lisamaree, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 1:40:54 PM
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Judging by the emails above, the winds have changed since the torrent of fear and gloom from OLO posters regarding the major Terrorism Bills passed late last year. Something to do with the arrest of the terrorism suspects in Sydney and Melbourne?

Regarding Hume and Williams article this Interception Bill has, in fact, been under public scruitiny since mid February 2006 when it was introduced into Parliament.

For a more positive view see the Age of 15 February 2006 http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/police-to-get-power-to-tap-the-innocent/2006/02/14/1139890738796.html

Snippets include:

"[The legislation's] main thrust is to modernise surveillance by formalising the power of police and intelligence agencies to examine suspects' phone messages and emails and other such "stored communications" which were not invented when the original law was passed in 1979.

"...The law would give them the power to monitor the phone of a person who might contact the suspect or who might be contacted by the suspect.

The warrant to do so would be issued by a judge under strict conditions, the spokeswoman said.

The police would be able to leave the tap in place for 45 days and ASIO for 90 days.

The warrant would be issued only in investigations of crimes carrying at least a seven- year sentence and would by issued in very limited circumstances.

"They would also have to show that they have exhausted all other avenues for tracking their suspect," the spokeswoman said."

It seems to give legal clarity (and stong legal limits) to what has already been happening on a less formal basis.

I also think the renewed emphasis on SMS and internet text records is because they would be more compelling as evidence in court than contentious voice transcripts.
Posted by plantagenet, Wednesday, 29 March 2006 1:49:44 PM
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