Surveillance state near, warns Pirate Party Australia


Australia’s division of the Pirate Party has declared war on the Federal Government over a controversial proposal which could potentially see telcos required to keep records of web browsing history, telephone calls and emails of their users.

“Exploiting the emotional issue of sexual child abuse, and under the guise of national security, the government is pushing for the introduction of what can only be considered a stepping stone towards a surveillance state,” said the party’s secretary Rodney Serkowski in a statement issued late last night.

The idea being explored with industry by the Attorney General’s Department would see a similar scheme implemented to the European Directive on Data Retention, which requires ISPs to record information on phone calls and emails, including from whom they were sent and from whom, the time and date and so on. has also reported that ISP industry sources had flagged the potential for the new regime to require ISPs to record a users’ complete web browsing history. ISPs such as iiNet have known about some aspects of the proposal since late 2009, but are believed to have signed confidentiality agreements to not disclose details of the proposal, while another ISP, Exetel, has described the proposal as “totally insane”.

Currently, ISPs will only allow this level of monitoring on users’ behaviour with a warrant — they normally do not retain this degree of data by default.

Neither Attorney-General Robert McLelland nor Communications Minister Stephen Conroy had responded to a request for comment on the matter.

The Pirate Party Australia – which internationally advocates libertarian-style digital rights — said it was “shocked and appalled” that the Federal Government would consider this level of surveillance. “There is absolutely no need for this level of Orwellian monitoring and data retention – it is an unjustified and disproportionate incursion into the fundamental right to privacy, and is likely to be abused,” Serkowski continued.

Added Pirate Party spokesperson Simon Frew: “This kind of surveillance will have a chilling effect on public discourse and political debate, people become fearful of being monitored and will lead to self-censorship. It is the complete antithesis of how the Pirate Party believes democracy should function.

Key to the Pirate Party’s complaint against the proposal is the idea that the monitoring powers could be abused – both by law enforcement officials themselves, as well as by external parties who could hack into such powerful databases.

The party also included a statement by Shu Ning Bian, a research assistant at the University of Sydney’s School of IT, claiming that “like the proposed internet filter”, the data retention proposal would be able to be “trivially circumvented” using technologies such as web encryption (HTTPS services) or virtual private networking.

But such a system would still require “enormous” investments by ISPs to implement, they said.

ISPs have so far remained unwilling to comment on the details of what they have been discussing with the Government about the proposal.

However, Serkowski said the Pirate Party hoped the industry would not aid the Government on such policies. “Such violations of human dignity and privacy are completely unacceptable,” he said. “These sorts of policies are grossly invasive.”

The issue is being discussed on Twitter under the #ozlog hashtag.

Image credit: Anja Ranneberg, royalty free


  1. So, the government wants to monitor and record – probably permanently – all my personal and business correspondence, my workplace activities, my phone calls, my banking, my tax returns, my groceries, my shopping, my investments, my recreational reading, my group associations, and every other aspect of my life involving a web browser?

    How can Labor possibly think this is anything other than despotic insanity?

  2. I received an email yesterday inviting me to a country Labor conference. I replied, “I am unable to support a party which intends to censor the Internet. This proposed legislation breaches Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is so far from traditional Labor values that I can’t believe they keep pushing it.”

    In fact, I’ve left the Party over this issue, and I will not vote Labor while it remains. With the policy described in this article, we slide further down the same slippery slope of loss of human rights.

    On a more frivolous note, I’d really like to see “national security” officers solemnly plodding through hours of 4chan and icanhazcheezburger. ;)

    • Awesome, Clytie, this is exactly the kind of thing that Labor supporters need to do to send a message to the politicians in their ivory towers. If their rank and file support starts to evaporate from underneath them, they will truly start to realise they need to change their minds about these odious internet policies.

      I mean, hell, I’ve voted Labor a couple of times in the past, although I normally vote Greens now. But I wouldn’t consider voting for Labor while we have these kind of anti-internet policies and while there are still people in refugee camps.

  3. I’d have less of a problem with this if the government was prepared to share with the taxpayers and voters a lot more details about themselves. Like records of which politician calls which to call in a favour in the party room. Or where we can have drill down access into what the government spends our money on.

    Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d love to see some accountability and record keeping around what bogans spend my money on after Centrelink legally steals it from me and gives it to them.

  4. I admire what the Pirate Party are saying / trying to do, but they really have to change their name. I’m not a PR / marketing person and even I can see the name “Pirate Party” has a negative effect for the causes they espouse. Hell, I reckon they’d exude a better vibe if they were called the “Ninja Party”

    • Maybe … but they have had a great deal of success in Europe with the name, and I think it appeals to generation Y (which I am on the cusp of). It’s kinda inverting the whole idea that pirating movies, music, games etc is a bad thing and making people realise that it’s part of today’s entire digital culture. And eventually many of those who would be offended by the Pirate Party moniker will become too old to become actively engaged with the political process …

  5. I hope the ISPs are able to pass on the cost of this surveilance. All that history has to be stored somewhere. storage aint free.

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