Electronic Frontiers Australia outlines 2016 priorities


news Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has spelled out its priorities for the coming year, addressing a host of areas including digital rights, data and intelligence gathering and copyright issues.

The looming Federal Election, in which innovation is likely to be an important issue, will provide opportunities for digital rights issues to really break into the mainstream, said the non-profit that aims to promote digital freedom, access and privacy.

The EFA issued a general pledge to ensure issues such as privacy, copyright reform, net neutrality and equity in access and related issues are “given the mainstream attention they deserve”.

In the statement, which was released last week, it also detailed the many priorities for the year ahead.

With mandatory data retention now a legislative reality, the organisation called for the warrant requirement for access to be extended to the entire population as the only effective means to ensure protection for whistle-blowers and other privileged conversations.

The expansion of the list of agencies able to access individual’s data is also in the EFA’s sights, as well as the data to be retained. This should also be scaled back to the “absolute minimum” and should be kept for shorter periods, it said.

Of further concern is the introduction of legislation requiring organisations suffering data breaches to notify the Privacy Commissioner, which has already been introduced into parliament twice without being passed.

Though imperfect, the EFA considers the legislation is an important safeguard for consumers, especially in the context of a society-wide mandatory data retention scheme, and should be passed by the parliament “without further delay”.

The campaign group also raised the issue of government overreach concerning private networks, saying impending legislation needs “careful, objective review” and should include clear limitations on the powers for government to interfere in network design and development. Otherwise, said the group, the nation could end up with an ISP sector that is “forced down to the lowest common denominator by overzealous regulation”.

Expansion of the powers available to intelligence agencies is another issue the EFA plans to tackle in the coming year.

It suggests that agencies’ activities should be subject to more effective oversight and accountability, while the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security should receive greater powers to examine operational matters of the intelligence agencies.

The EFA was also heavily critical of new legislation allowing rightsholders to seek Federal Court injunctions that would force ISPs to block access to offshore sites ‘facilitating copyright infringement’.

“Six months after this legislation become law, it remains unused (though it’s already being misused),” it said. “Our hope for 2016 then is that sanity will finally prevail and that both the government and established content distributors will focus on providing innovative solutions rather than on pointless attempts to prop up unsustainable legacy business models.”

The EFA also plans to campaign on a number of other issues including:

  • Positive copyright reform – wants meaningful progress on the implementation of a broad flexible fair use exception into Australia’s Copyright Act
  • International Trade Agreements – has concerns over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) negotiations
  • Encryption – hopes law enforcement agencies will cease asserting that ‘encryption enables terrorism’
  • Privacy Reforms – wants serious consideration for a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy; could possibly support proposed ‘revenge porn’ legislation
  • Open Government – wants more effective oversight of the Freedom of Information process
  • Constitutional Protections – wants legislation, possibly a bill of rights, to guarantee enforceable rights to free expression and privacy for Australians written into law and bring Australia into line with most other developed countries.


      • Andrew T has a point, efa should get all up in your shit and make you stop being a jerk.

        • I think he’s five years behind the fact I’ve left and is hoping whoever is on the board these days can reign me in.

          That thing where someone dislikes you enough to comment on a news article about an organisation you were vice chairman of before your child was born but not enough to realise that you left a few weeks after Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was published and a few before the Bali bombings.

      • You [Geordie Guy] were very unfriendly to me on EFA forums. Despite the fact that I donated money to EFA and I shared a common interest in technology and privacy. I got the impression from you that you were [ still are?] a clique of about 4 people who didn’t want any outsider’s help.

        • I’m not likely to be described as publicly and arbitrarily affectionate, if I was unkind to you I apologise. That apology is entirely divorced from any donation – EFA at the time received and presumably still does receive donations from several hundred members, similar better resourced associations and peripheral groups or businesses with an interest in what the association does and a stake in it doing it well. You’re getting an apology because you are still clearly upset by something I said more than five years after I said it, not because donations buy you civility or really anything other than a stronger EFA and through it a better chance of avoiding bad digital policy.

          The “clique” you’re referring to is likely the board, which is currently nine members with Jon Lawrence orbiting as an executive officer making it 10 staff. When I was vice chair it was fewer. That board for the relative handful of body blows it actually lands, does a hell of a lot of work. In my time there any given day would involve fitting a lot around a day job (all EFA staff are volunteers or at least were pre 2010) – planning and administration of the organisation, responding to genuine queries from politicians and staffers about policy direction, responding to mentally ill people who wanted to association’s help in stopping the government spying on them via their TV, corresponding with people of indeterminate mental health who wanted refunds of membership dues to the Equestrian Foundation of Australia, organising advertising campaigns, dealing with media inquiries about the advertising campaigns, dealing with backlash to the advertising campaigns, trying to find people to volunteer their skills in graphic design, marketing, communications, policy writing, arguing in public forums against policy opponents, arranging collaborative efforts with similar organisations… the list literally goes on for miles.

          In my time we heard heaps of good ideas that we implemented, and heaps of good ones we didn’t or couldn’t. We also heard heaps of bad ideas that we didn’t implement, and some bad ideas we did. I assume in that regard today’s association is very similar to the one in 2010.

          Again, if your idea or position in a forum was a good one that sounded like a bad one to someone who was hella busy trying to balance a professional career, the aims of the association, at that stage likely a pregnant wife, and you got a mouthful from me over it, I apologise.

  1. I’m surprised companies like this continue to exist.

    The consumer has spoken, they do not want DRM on the content they buy. Its why the MP3 has become the default music file, and Zune, WMA, Apple DRM etc no longer exist today.

    Region coding is going the way of the dodo, and companies like Netflix will prosper, as they break down the geographic barriers.

    Movie and music companies, who take 99% of the profit from media sales, are the old rear guard trying to protect their profits. They couldn’t care less about the artists “rights” that they continually bang on about.

  2. I think the concerning thing is how much information is being stored, collected, organised and access by private organisations. Not just governments departments and agency that trusted with confidential records about ourself.

    But what happens when rogue someone, group, company or agency escape detection?

    Hypothetically speaking:
    If someone can gain access via a feature/holes/weakness in Intel® Management Engine. Its’ unconfirmed, but someone could access the system without detection or leaving a audit trail. The people responsible for this system wouldn’t know the difference

  3. Given I seem to be topical in the comments on this, I’ll weigh in

    The EFA issued a general pledge to ensure issues such as privacy, copyright reform, net neutrality and equity in access and related issues are “given the mainstream attention they deserve”.

    Prove it. If old mate a few comments above had been following me or EFA enough to know that we parted ways half a decade ago, they’d have seen the 2010 ZDNet article about my departure which articulated that I left because the organisation’s objectives were expressly outside of this. Where I kicked goals on the board was awareness campaigns, and making online rights something Internet users (then and now, that’s everyone) think about. EFA do an amazing job of hearts and minds in government – there was, and presumably still is, a thing in politicians’ heads about what EFA will think of the next policy move that falls within EFA’s remit, but the organisation has a multi-decade history of not winning mindshare amongst everyday folks.

    It’s time for EFA, and basically every peripherally related NGO that has even half an eyeball on what happens with regulation that affects the online space, to set aside traditional notions of organisation building and start figuring out how to market and win eyeballs and minds. 2016 needs to be the year that one in ten Australians know who EFA are, not the year the finances firm up to the point that copy editors and/or an executive director can be put on full time.

    tl;dr – stop trying to build a management structure that can build an organisation, and start building an organisation.

  4. A few years ago (during one of the internet censorship periods) I was a member of EFA, but didn’t rejoin because the organisation seemed to not actually do much, not even able to harness the very active member base on the mailing lists. I’d rather give my money to EFF than EFA, they’re more effective (actually I donated to SFC this year). More generally I think local NGOs suffer from just not having a big enough population and business base for there to be enough margin for them to harness to be effective. Even the ACS, despite their big business backing, are totally ineffective (and thank god for that).

    • You’ve nailed it there I think. Small population means that the number of people who are willing to donate time/money is even smaller.

  5. I’ve been pretty unhappy with the state of Internet-related civil society organisations in Australia (namely EFA and ISOC-AU — sorry, “Internet Australia”), and talking to others, I’m not alone.

    Most of what I’ve seen seems to be very inwardly-focused, old-boy-network social forums, rather than the action-oriented orgs we so desperately need.

    So, this is promising. EFA appears to be changing, and possibly even in the right direction.

    • “I’ve been pretty unhappy with the state of Internet-related civil society organisations in Australia (namely EFA and ISOC-AU — sorry, “Internet Australia”), and talking to others, I’m not alone.”


      They need (which none of them have at the moment):

      -Strong, grassroots membership development
      -To build stronger links with the right corporates to add muscle
      -To have permanent representation in Canberra

  6. I think the EFA should do stuff about things people (not a bunch geeks huddled in online fora) care about. Lacking broad, grass-roots support doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing it wrong – it could also mean no-one cares.

    How do you make people care about data retention being bad when when all anyone can see is the success of using stored metadata to track down child pornographers and terrorists? Apart from loony libertarians rants about “government is bad”, no-one is hearing any message they care about.

    Fighting against copyright and the protection of intellectual property (against the specific protections granted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author”), is not cool, and won’t win the EFA support from the content creators, or their agents, that people care about.

    There might just be something in shooting both the message AND the messenger.

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