News that the Federal Government’s financial regulator, ASIC, has started forcing Australian ISPs to block websites it suspects of providing fraudulent financial opportunities has set off warning bells for Pirate Party Australia.
The Party has long been a critic of the imposition of filtering regimes on Australian Internet users, taking particular objection to the lack of oversight and competency involved. The ASIC incident has proven to be no exception: 1,200 websites were wrongly and inadvertently blocked as a result of a single request. The IP address used by the fraudulent site was shared with several others, including the independent learning organisation Melbourne Free University.
ASIC’s order to block the website relied upon section 313 of the Telecommunications Act to justify the block, appearing to be the second time ASIC has attempted to have a website blocked.
The Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Convention was ratified by Australia on Friday, 1 March 2013. Pirate Party Australia has previously criticised the Convention for being flawed in regard to the protection of privacy and personal data.
The Pirate Party notes that the Australian Parliament has already passed a comprehensive piece of legislation in August 2012 that complies with the requirements of the Cybercrime Convention. The pious-sounding Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Act 2012 includes the ability for a foreign country to ask Australia for a communication by an Australian if the crime for which they are accused carries the death penalty in the requesting country.
The current legislation could allow a country to gather data about Australian citizens for any crime with a penalty exceeding $100,000, or that carries the death penalty. Due to the loose dual-criminality provisions within the Act, this could potentially allow countries with blasphemy laws, criminal copyright provisions or laws against activism to access Australian data.
The treaty’s entry into force comes at a time when the Australian Government, with the support of various law enforcement agencies, is examining an extensive range of proposed amendments to national security and intelligence legislation and regulations. Included among these changes are the mandatory, warrantless two-year retention of the Internet communications of all Australians, the ability for law enforcement agencies to not only remotely access citizens computers but to also add software and other files to them, as well as penalties for failing to assist in decrypting encrypted data.
Australian Greens, Pirate Party Australia combined press release
Australian Greens communications spokesperson Senator Scott Ludlam will table a petition in the Senate tomorrow circulated by Pirate Party Australia and comprising 1447 signatures raising serious concerns about proposed changes to national security laws.
The signatories have presented objections to the proposals under discussion by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security Inquiry into potential reforms of National Security Legislation (#natsecinquiry).
“98.9 per cent of the five and a half thousand submissions received by the Committee are opposed to the unnecessary and dangerously vague data retention proposal and other draconian ideas suggested by the Attorney General’s Department,” said Senator Ludlam.
Pirate Party Secretary Brendan Molloy said, “The petitioners object to penalties for failing to provide computer passwords and near unrestricted interception of communications, as well as the appallingly short window of time provided by the Committee to make a submission, of which the Pirate Party campaigned for an extension.”
Pirate Party Australia condemns the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Improving Electoral Procedure) Bill 2012, the second reading of which was today debated in the Senate.
The particular parts the Pirate Party objects to are the amendments to paragraph 170(3)(a) and 170(3)(b) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, which would double the cost of fielding Senate and House of Representatives candidates. If the bill passes, Senate candidates will cost $2,000, while House of Representatives candidates will cost $1,000.
The purpose of the price increase is to “discourage…those candidates and groups whose chances are very slim, thereby avoiding unwieldy ballot papers that tend to be difficult to read and are likely to give rise to higher levels of informality,” according to a Parliamentary Library document.
“The two particular amendments, masterfully hidden among fairly reasonable amendments, are devastating to the ability of minority parties such as ourselves to compete in fair and democratic elections,”commented Mozart Olbrycht-Palmer, Deputy Secretary of Pirate Party Australia. “The justification for increasing the cost of candidates is laughable — democracy is not about discouraging candidates from competing elections, and it is not about the convenience of being able to print smaller ballot papers.”
Pirate Party Australia raises concerns over the mandatory nature of the new Interpol Internet filtering regime, in regards to its opaque nature and the dubious use of §313 of the Telecommunications Act.
ISPs have been ordered to implement Interpol’s “worst-of-the-worst” filter that specifically targets websites that provide access to child abuse material. This order has been made under §313 of the Telecommunications Act 1997. It is unclear whether or not the use of §313 for the purposes of Internet censorship is appropriate or even legal.
“While an Internet filtering regime that focuses squarely on the Interpol blacklist is a major step back from the proposed mandatory censorship regime which would have encompassed all Refused Classification content — and even some R18+ and MA15+ content — the opaque nature and lack of control over the blacklist are still issues that raise significant concern,” said Brendan Molloy, Secretary of Pirate Party Australia.