In the wake of the Melbourne terror incident and the terror attacks in London and Manchester the Federal government is attempting to shift some of the blame for the actions of the terrorists in these latest attacks on to large Internet companies and the encryption technology which keeps us all safe online.

Pirate Party Australia opposes any weakening of encryption because it will be ineffective, it will harm the privacy of ordinary citizens and it will make it easier for private data to be stolen by hackers, both criminal and state sponsored.

The Internet relies on functioning encryption to protect users from attack. It is estimated that in 2016 ‘cybercrime’ increased by 30% and cost the Australian economy three billion dollars.[1] Every time a vulnerability is created, such as allowing intelligence agencies to access private communications, it creates another vector for attacks to occur.

“Security online is weak enough without the government pushing to make it weaker,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Any vulnerability created for intelligence agencies is a vulnerability for people with more nefarious intentions. A good example of this occurred last year when security experts published a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows Secure Boot, a system that is designed to protect systems from hacking. Microsoft included a workaround so developers could test systems without needing to validate the software. This was used to install malware that Secure Boot was specifically designed to stop[2]. With such benign work arounds being exploited for malware, breaking end-to-end encryption would be a disaster in the making.”

“This is the beginning of the next round of ‘crypto wars’ between the government and private citizens. With each new power granted to spies and law enforcement agencies, people concerned with their privacy take new measures to protect themselves from the government,” Mr Frew continued. “Forcing social media giants to employ backdoors in their messaging services will just lead to other platforms being adopted and those who wish to communicate anonymously will continue to do so. Those without technical knowhow to work around broken encryption will be at greater risk.”

“Private communications are vital for an open society. When citizens believe they are under constant surveillance, they self-censor and this creates a chilling effect. Legitimate criticisms of government policy may not be aired and our democracy suffers as a result. This is also a risk to the economy, with businesses relying on encryption to securely do business, weakening encryption puts businesses at significant risk. We call upon the government to abandon its misguided plans to weaken encryption and instead suggest more investment in police resources to manage the known terrorist threats. Increasing the size of the data haystack collected by mass surveillance isn’t working, it has turned everyone into a suspect and eroded the presumption of innocence.” Simon concluded.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-19/cybercrime,-online-scamming-of-business-up-30pc:-accc/8537992
[2] https://www.wired.com/2016/08/microsoft-secure-boot-hack

The Australian Federal Police have this afternoon admitted[1] to accessing a journalist’s metadata without a warrant. It is less than a year since data retention scheme went live, with all Australian individuals and businesses communications metadata now saved by communications providers. The Pirate Party has warned of this exact scenario occurring since the metadata collection scheme was proposed. It should come as no surprise to anyone with a grain of foresight that this would occur.

“When people campaigning against data retention said ‘get a warrant’, they meant it” said Michael Keating, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia. “Our fears that anyone with access to the data retention system could access metadata without needing a warrant were not unfounded, and the AFP have confirmed our position as being correct. Setting up a mass surveillance system was always going to lead to egregious breaches in privacy and we only know about this one because the victim was a journalist.”

“What this breach has made clear is that there are no mechanisms in place to deal with failures in the data retention scheme. The victim of the breach has not been notified and to add insult to injury, the AFP have played down the breach by saying “the contents of the call were not accessed,” he continued.

“The AFP clearly do not understand the damage to the privacy of Australian citizens that every improper access to their data brings. They, and indeed any organisation that can access metadata records, should not be trusted with accessing records without a warrant. It should not take a failure of process to prevent individuals privacy from being breached,” Mr Keating said.

“The Pirate Party is committed to repealing the data retention system. It removes Australians’ right to privacy, as the AFP have shown they can access what they like, when they like. Journalists should be asking a lot of questions about this breach. Every individual should be questioning their local member as to their right to privacy” he concluded.

The Pirate Party urges Australians to contact their local member and tell them warrantless access of their metadata is simply unacceptable. The Pirate Party re-affirms its stance to protecting privacy in Australia.

[1] https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/afp-reports-breach-tia-act-commonwealth-ombudsman

It has been revealed that the Copyright Agency, the body tasked with collecting copyright payments from universities, schools and other public institutions, has been lining its own pockets with fees collected for orphan works. Instead of the money being used to encourage new works by authors and journalists, it has been secretly allocated to wage a campaign against the Productivity Commission’s proposal to introduce a fair use copyright provision in Australia.[1]

“Whilst we advocate for users to have the right to copy works for non-commercial purposes, what the Copyright Agency has done is essentially theft, going by the standards rights-holders usually label others.” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “We believe that collecting money from educational institutions for quoting works should be done away with, as proposed by the Productivity Commission. However, whilst it is part of the copyright system authors deserve the full amount collected, or the institutions should get a refund. These funds were collected to support creative efforts, not to bank roll lawyers and self serving marketing campaigns.”

“Milking educational institutions for income, refusing to hold it for the rightful recipients of the money and then using it to wage a political campaign against those institutions is villainous,” Mr Frew continued. “It is, at best, an attempt to defend the Copyright Agency’s own relevance, if fair use provisions were introduced into copyright law, their role in collecting and distributing copyright money would diminish.”

Australia has many of the worst aspects of the US copyright system, introduced as part of the Australia US Free Trade Agreement, without any of the benefits. Fair use allows for wider use of copyrighted items than exists under the Australian fair dealing system, which includes quotation rights for educational purposes. The restrictive fair dealing system in Australia restricts what is possible for new technology companies and digital innovators. A company like Google would be sued out of existence before they could get off the ground in Australia’s current regulatory environment.

“We call on the federal government to enact fair use provisions into Australian copyright law as a matter of urgency. Innovation is being hampered by the vague and overbearing fair dealing provisions in Australian copyright law” he concluded.

[1] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/copyright-agency-diverts-funds-meant-for-authors-to-15m-fighting-fund-20170420-gvol0w.html

In an epic violation of trust, Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge has intentionally given out a Centrelink client’s personal information to Fairfax media, as a part of a political campaign to discredit and silence Australians speaking out against the nightmare of Centrelink’s debt recovery program[1]. The article, published by Fairfax media[2], contained personal information that was used to “correct the record”, but only serves to highlight the abuse of power within Federal Government departments who would rather be seen to silence criticism than fix the issue at hand.

“By releasing personal information to ‘correct the record’, Centrelink and federal government MPs and officials have set a dangerous precedent when it comes to handling the information of Australians” said Pirate Party Deputy President, Michael Keating. “This action shows the federal government’s intent with collection of personal data from multiple sources, and it’s not for national security reasons. Regardless of what the official line is, this appears to be nothing short of a department attempting to silence criticism in the bluntest way possible, despite there being legitimate issues in process and service delivery from this department. Silencing criticism does not resolve the problems, it only serves to amplify them.”

The release of personal data may be authorised by the Department of Human Services to “correct public statements”[3], but is an entirely disproportionate reaction. This comes from a government who at this time is seeking to link various data collected on individuals, from Census data, to metadata and phone records. The implications of a government department issuing personal data with little to no oversight and the intent of silencing an individual, is horribly irresponsible from a government who claims to be “adult”. We note that at this time, requests to ministers’ diary entries go unanswered[4], which highlights a running hypocrisy on transparency by the Federal Government.

“The point made by the release of this information is that if you speak out about your experience with a government department in a negative light, the government will happily blackmail you into silence.” Mr Keating continued. “This is nothing short of moral incompetence from a heartless government, who also has access to your metadata, call records, and Census information. We have no doubt government departments will access cross-linked data without a warrant or oversight in the future to ‘deal’ with people or problems. We are appalled and demand that the bureaucrats and ministers involved take responsibility for their actions; it’s what adults should do.”

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In the wake of the proposed cuts to Newstart that will see the newly unemployed have to wait a month before receiving benefits and people under the age of 25 being forced onto Youth Allowance with a reduced income, Pirate Party Australia calls for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income.

“We live in an era of increasingly precarious work lives, people are losing jobs to manufacturers based in the developing world and increasingly to automation,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “The government’s response is to punish people who lose their jobs by forcing them to survive on no income for a month before they can receive benefits and forcing older people onto ‘Youth’ allowance. We believe there is another way.”

“We support the implementation of a Universal Basic Income to provide everyone with the means to survive, to get education, to try to set up their own businesses whatever they wish. Rather than forcing people into desperate situations or punishing them with made-up Centrelink debts, we should ensure that everyone has a place in society,” he continued.

The Pirate Party Universal Basic Income policy is based on the idea of applying a negative income tax, where every Australian is provided with a set amount each year, which is reduced at the tax rate until it reaches zero, at which point income tax starts to be paid. For more information see the detailed policy[1].

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