Data Retention – An Act of blindness

One day a rooster, the next day a feather duster!

By LAURIE PATTON | 30 October 2020

Shortly after joining Internet Australia as CEO in 2014 I fronted the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence (PJCIS) to make a submission on the subsequently enacted Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act 2015. I boldly told the committee that the draft Bill before the Parliament was “fundamentally flawed” and had clearly been written by lawyers who didn’t understand how the Internet actually works.

One of the then committee members, Philip Ruddock, challenged me to provide evidence, which was subsequently delivered in a confidential supplementary submission. As a result the committee made 29 recommendations for amendments to the Bill. The most important of these was a proposal for the PJCIS to undertake a review of the scheme after three years.

This week the PJCIS released its report on that review – making 22 recommendations that, if accepted, would lead to increased transparency, raise the threshold for when data can be accessed, and reduce overall access to our private data.

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The Assange dilemma. What is journalism in the online age?

By LAURIE PATTON | 13 June 2019 (Updated 26 November 2019)

It’s time for more humane treatment of Julian Assange. Guilt or innocence aside nobody should be treated the way he is allegedly being treated. More than 60 doctors have now written an open letter to the UK authorities saying he suffers from psychological problems including depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment. They want him transferred to a hospital. Clearly they have a point.

However, while I accept that Assange is not in good health and deserves better treatment let’s not applaud what was a dangerous practice and a dubious precedent – publicly exposing unverified data that could potentially risk peoples’ lives and create unforeseen collateral damage. How would you feel if it had included sensitive and confidential information about you?

In my opinion Assange is a whistle-blower not a journalist. He helped dump huge amounts of confidential material secured illegally from US Government computers straight onto the Internet, unfiltered and uncorroborated. If it had been leaked directly to the media outlets that subsequently, but very selectively, published reports based on some of his WikiLeaks files he probably would not be in gaol in the UK facing extradition to the United States.

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