Uproar in Australia Over Plan to Block Web Sites: “A proposed Internet filter dubbed the ‘Great Aussie Firewall’ is promising to make Australia one of the strictest Internet regulators among democratic countries. Consumers, civil-rights activists, engineers, Internet providers and politicians from opposition parties are among the critics of a mandatory Internet filter that would block at least 1,300 Web sites prohibited by the government — mostly child pornography, excessive violence, instructions in crime or drug use and advocacy of terrorism.
(Via Wired News.)
Battle lines drawn over Bill to ban ‘extreme’ porn – UK Politics, UK – The Independent: “Battle lines drawn over Bill to ban ‘extreme’ porn
State seeks ‘unique powers to police bedrooms’, claim critics, including two lords
By Jerome Taylor, Tuesday, 30 December 2008
To some people it is exactly the kind of protective legislation that Britain needs in a world where access to a vast array of pornography is available at the click of a mouse. To others, a new law banning “extreme” pornography gives the Government unprecedented powers to police bedrooms (and basements).
Critics, including at least two lords, say that legislation coming into force next month forbidding the possession of “an extreme pornographic image” will criminalise thousands of previously law-abiding people who have a harmless taste for unconventional sex.
Section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 comes into force on 26 January and makes owning offending pictures a criminal offence punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. An image is deemed to be extreme if it “is grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character” and portrays in any way an act which threatens a person’s life, or which results or appears likely to result in serious injury to someone’s genitals or breasts.
The law was passed earlier this year following a mother’s emotive campaign after her daughter was killed by a man who claimed he was addicted to violent porn.
Great Moments in P2P History 2008: “So what can be said about the year 2008 in file-sharing? Its been a long year for the P2P community. While there was no earth shattering events on the scale of 2006s raid on The Pirate Bay, there were enough developments that kept things interesting.”
Proposals by UK Culture Secretary, Andy Burnham, to introduce cinema-style ratings for websites across the globe might benefit from a little more fact-finding and a little less rhetoric. On the other hand, the danger of open-minded research, is that it might just expose New Labour waffle to the harsh realities of how things actually work.…
(Via The Register – Public Sector.)
The private sector will be asked to manage and run a communications database that will keep track of everyone’s calls, emails, texts and internet use under a key option contained in a consultation paper to be published next month by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary.
A cabinet decision to put the management of the multibillion pound database of all UK communications traffic into private hands would be accompanied by tougher legal safeguards to guarantee against leaks and accidental data losses.
But in his strongest criticism yet of the superdatabase, Sir Ken Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has firsthand experience of working with intelligence and law enforcement agencies, told the Guardian such assurances would prove worthless in the long run and warned it would prove a ‘hellhouse’ of personal private information.
‘Authorisations for access might be written into statute. The most senior ministers and officials might be designated as scrutineers. But none of this means anything,’ said Macdonald. ‘All history tells us that reassurances like these are worthless in the long run. In the first security crisis the locks would loosen.’
The home secretary postponed the introduction of legislation to set up the superdatabase in October and instead said she would publish a consultation paper in the new year setting out the proposal and the safeguards needed to protect civil liberties. She has emphasised that communications data, which gives the police the identity and location of the caller, texter or web surfer but not the content, has been used as important evidence in 95% of serious crime cases and almost all security service operations since 2004 including the Soham and 21/7 bombing cases.
Until now most communications traffic data has been held by phone companies and internet service providers for billing purposes but the growth of broadband phone services, chatrooms and anonymous online identities mean that is no longer the case.
The Home Office’s interception modernisation programme, which is working on the superdatabase proposal, argues that it is no longer good enough for communications companies to be left to retrieve such data when requested by the police and intelligence services. A Home Office spokeswoman said last night the changes were needed so law enforcement agencies could maintain their ability to tackle serious crime and terrorism.
Senior Whitehall officials responsible for planning for a new database say there is a significant difference between having access to ‘communications data’ – names and addresses of emails or telephone numbers, for example – and the actual contents of the communications. ‘We have been very clear that there are no plans for a database containing any content of emails, texts or conversations,’ the spokeswoman said.
External estimates of the cost of the superdatabase have been put as high as £12bn, twice the cost of the ID cards scheme, and the consultation paper, to be published towards the end of next month, will include an option of putting it into the hands of the private sector in an effort to cut costs. But such a decision is likely to fuel civil liberties concerns over data losses and leaks. Macdonald, who left his post as DPP in October, told the Guardian: ‘The tendency of the state to seek ever more powers of surveillance over its citizens may be driven by protective zeal. But the notion of total security is a paranoid fantasy which would destroy everything that makes living worthwhile. We must avoid surrendering our freedom as autonomous human beings to such an ugly future. We should make judgments that are compatible with our status as free people.’
Maintaining the capacity to intercept suspicious communications was critical in an increasingly complex world, he said. ‘It is a process which can save lives and bring criminals to justice. But no other country is considering such a drastic step. This database would be an unimaginable hell-house of personal private information,’ he said. ‘It would be a complete readout of every citizen’s life in the most intimate and demeaning detail. No government of any colour is to be trusted with such a roadmap to our souls.’
The moment there was a security crisis the temptation for more commonplace access would be irresistible, he said.
Other critics of the plan point to the problems of keeping the database secure, both from the point of view of the technology and of deliberate leaks. The problem would be compounded if private companies manage the system. ‘If there is a breach of security in that database it would be utterly devastating,’ one said