When is a web address not a web site?

Answer: When our Attorney-General is talking.

Check out this shocking interview from George Brandis on Sky News about what will and won’t be ‘captured’ as part of the Abbott government’s plan to retain our browsing history for two years.

He obviously has no idea what he’s on about and someone has just roughly told him to mention the address and not the site.

Does he mean the IP Address? Does he mean the URL? Does he mean whether or not too many people are reading ‘The Guardian’ instead of ‘news.com.au’?

Who knows…obviously not George.

At the end of the day, the government is asking ISPs to retain two years of our browsing history as part of their data retention proposal. 

This is not a trivial amount of data but it is the fact that the AG has no idea what actual data is being stored that is the problem here. Another perfect example of a high profile politician talking to the media about a subject they have no idea about.

Remember this?

Stephen Conroy says: “There’s a staggering number of Australian’s being in having their computers infected at the moment, up to 20,000, uh, can regularly be getting infected by these spams, or scams, that come through, the portal." (SBS News 6 June 2010)

Aaah yes, the good old evil portal. Of course, the internet filter that Conroy tried to introduce was a shambles, but he did go on to make inroads towards the infamous NBN.

The main problem here is the idea of ‘metadata’. In web browsing terms, metadata means little as the data would have to include either the URL (ie. mickrad.com) or the IP (Internet Protocol) Address (66.6.44.4). Ultimately, just retaining the IP Address is pointless however as numbers can change regularly or not identify the actual site, just the general host, making the data irrelevant.

Either way, the government is wanting a record of every site we visit and for it to be retained for two years.

There are several question surrounding this…

  • Will the ISP charge us to retain this data?
  • Where is it stored? 
  • How will it be protected?

Australia’s second-largest ISP iiNet estimated it would cost A$60 million just to build a suitable storage facility.

Similar measures have been undertaken in the US and Europe has had a tough time trying to implement it.

European courts have damned the retention as significantly eroding respect for privacy under national and EU-wide law. In a liberal democratic state it is axiomatic that not everyone be considered a “suspect”, a potential criminal whose life can be tracked via their electronic presence over a period of several years. (http://theconversation.com/data-retention-flopped-in-europe-and-should-be-rejected-here-30219)

So, once again, the government has gone off half-cocked on a plan that they have not even thought about, let alone understand. They want us, the tax payer, to pay for the government to be able to snoop on any of us and extract data that may or may not prove anything in the end. It’s the equivalent to saving every single word we’ve read in our lives just in case we have read something that could be construed as ‘dangerous’ or ‘linked to terrorism’

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3 years ago

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