Presented the following slides to a small group of interested people the other night. Would love to hear your feedback.
When honest people are unjustifiably placed under constant surveillance, they begin to act differently. They change their behaviour to suit the changed environment where there is an ever-present fear of being watched, where people feel that they are treated as criminals by default for just living out their lives. Genuine targets of surveillance however have already taken countermeasures to work around the pervasive surveillance, with the ultimate result of not solving any actual perceived issues, just creating more.
I do wonder whether the Government has considered that such an environment may serve only to provoke a more aggressive responses from marginalised communities already under constant surveillance due to tenuous and perceived threats of ‘terrorist activity’. The threats of terrorism that are not addressed by existing legislation are far outweighed by the provocative nature of the extended powers being proposed.
Terrorism is a term that is more regularly being used as a mechanism to stifle dissent in the Western world than any act of violence against civilians these days, such as in the case of David Miranda, the partner of prolific transparency journalist Glenn Greenwald, attempting to enter the UK and having his data seized. Yes, actual journalism is defined as terrorism these days according to UK law, as the truth is absolutely terrifying to the ruling class of the modern Western ‘liberal’ democracy.
Terrorism is a word used to provoke fear in the population, and to provoke unquestioning acceptance of the most heinous revocations of due process and human rights in the history of liberal democracy.
I define terrorism as any action that uses violence and intimidation in order to meet the political goals of the aggressor. We are unlikely to soon see the Government provide a solid definition, as it does not play into their hand as well when they opt to take away our rights to further any of their fear-based exercises.
Perhaps taking action to ensure that marginalised members of our society are less isolated would be a better option than actively provoking a response from these groups, for all purposes. This, however, is obviously not as fun or as easy as whipping up a racial hatred storm to “stop to boats” and consume the votes. Giving the executive the power to determine who or what groups are considered terrorists, simplifying the discussion down to an abstract “goodies versus baddies”, only serves to play into the hands of political bias and not genuine protection of Australian society.
The most appropriate response would be to build strong relationships with these communities in order to respond swiftly and appropriately to issues within society before they escalate beyond control. Instead, by going down the route of treating all persons as guilty until proven innocent, fuel is being provided to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of domestic terrorism.
One of my biggest concerns is that while this policy is being fuelled by xenophobic fear-mongering, actual genuine threats may be overlooked, perhaps in the same way that Anders Breivik managed to massacre dozens of peaceful political activists in the name of “stopping multiculturalism”. Perhaps is it worth considering whether due to fear, the world is placing disproportionate focus on combatting Islamic jihad, and in practice enabling right-wing nationalist organisations or individuals free reign to plan their next atrocity.
Xenophobia is blinding. Ubiquitous surveillance is agitating. The outcome is self-fulfilling.
None of this is to say that there is not a potential threat from radicalisation of persons fighting overseas. On the contrary, I am suggesting that where there is a legitimate suspicion that a person may have broken the law, there are already sufficient mechanisms available that don’t require dismantling the rule of law in our country. A person leaves to go to a territory considered to be a potential hot zone for fighting? Law enforcement agencies have access to the records of who they are and where they are going. Follow up on those individuals and see if they have committed any wrongdoing. Consider using the digital surveillance powers that you already have available to you such as a data preservation order targeted specifically on this suspect. This is called gathering evidence of criminal activity, with the intent of pressing charges where wrongdoing is found, and giving the individual a fair trial. This is a core precept of what makes up a modern, liberal democracy. Kill that, and you have nothing left to defend from ‘terrorism’—you’ve already done their job for them.
After all of this, there’s the question of proportionality. There is no proportionality here. Ubiquitous surveillance creates a massive haystack for finding a needle that may not even be there, where traditional police work based on actual available evidence, strong relationships with diverse communities and working to build an inclusive society would solve the problem (where one is proven to exist) in a much more effective manner.
Treating literally every Australian as a suspect, reversing the legal principle of innocence until proven guilty, in confluence with the slew of other proposed weakenings of legal principles such as reversal of the onus of proof, is a recipe for disaster.
I will end with my favourite quote from this entire debacle by Senator Brandis: “[data retention] is very much the way in which western nations are going”. This reminds me of a question my mother used to ask me as a child: “if your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” Our Government just answered that question in the affirmative, and wants to force us all off it with them. Let’s not let them take us down with them.
Now get back to destroying this absurd budget, all of you.
More free trade agreement dramas. Apparently, the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement requires overturning the iiTrial in order to be implemented! Joy!
Australia-Korea FTA NIA asserts High Ct decision in Roadshow v iiNet is inconsistent with Australia-US FTA. Really? http://t.co/NfztJn4B7L
— Kimberlee Weatherall (@kim_weatherall) June 11, 2014
This tweet was concerning enough as it is, so I dug into the “National Interest Assessment” itself and found the gem on point 17:
Consistent with Australia’s existing obligations in the Australia-US and Australia-Singapore FTAs, and to fully implement its obligations under KAFTA, the Copyright Act 1968 will require amendment in due course to provide a legal incentive for online service providers to cooperate with copyright owners in preventing infringement due to the High Court’s decision in Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd, which found that ISPs are not liable for authorising the infringements of subscribers.
I’ve shot off FOI requests to AGD, DFAT and IP Australia. There’s a JSCOT sitting on Monday, so hopefully someone will grill them on this absolute travesty.
This explains at least partially why Senator Brandis is so interested in implementing a graduated response and Internet censorship regime in Australia. The mess just keeps getting worse. Let’s not forget the Productivity Commission very explicitly stated that IP changes should not be considered in FTAs without proper analysis of the consequences.
If this Government can’t even handle something as straight-forward as a bilateral free trade agreement without it requiring major changes to our Copyright Act, how can we trust a single word they say about the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement not requiring changes to our legislation?
Hey! Been a while since I last made a blog post. A lot has been happening. Quit my job, went back to full time studies for a bit, focused hard on getting Pirate Party stuff happening, and I’ve thrown around a couple more freedom of information requests recently.
However, recently, regional pricing got my goat. I’m a big fan of the Witcher series of games. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a mature RPG series based on a series of Polish novels by an author called Andrzej Sapkowski.
Well, the creators of the Witcher 3, CD Projekt RED, also own a pretty good game distribution website called Gog, which distributes games DRM-free. Unfortunately, CD Projekt RED have decided to slap on a pretty awful regional pricing.
For people in the US, they will pay $60 USD. We in Australia however will pay a lovely $90 AUD! Go regional pricing, go! They will however offer about $20 AUD worth of coupons for other old games, but honestly, it’s not good enough.
So like all good angry little digital activists should do, I sent them a feedback message. I can’t republish it exactly because I sent it using a web form, and their email reply didn’t include it.
The gist of it was that I said I was “disgusted” in this complete ripoff for a game that will in all likelihood be censored by our puritan government anyway and pointed out that DRM-free isn’t everything, and that blaming regional pricing agreements they chose to sign is a cop-out.
Today, I got a gem of a response (a piece of quartz as far as gems go):
Subject: Re: Australia tax on the Witcher 3 Hello I wonder why are you disgusted with us since we are not responsible for those arrangements. Our only choice was to offer game for Australian region with higher price or not to offer them game at all. The choice seems to be obvious. What's more it's not nice to be disgust with a company which offer you any kind of compensation for the higher price because we could leave that price and not offer anything in return. Fair price package is not an apology of any kind only a way to cover the difference between prices. And received codes are not for preordained games. You can chose them by yourself and if it will happen that you cannot purchase game with such code (because higher price) you could always contact us. Ideally we would prefer to charge everyone same prices like we are doing it with other games from our store but we are obligated to charge regional prices and we cannot ignore it. Regards, JuriJ GOG.com Support
Fucking fuck fuck fuuuuck. I sat there for about 5 minutes just reading it. Was the very first sentence the cop-out I thought it was? What school of customer service even is this? I expected a canned response, but this was a new level of goop. It even told me I should be nicer to a corporation. lol!
Once I had stopped rage laughing, I slapped out a response that even I’m surprised came from my fingers:
Hi JuriJ, I will forgive you for your English, as it seems to be a foreign language for you, but there are fundamental issues with what you have said. Please do not tell a customer they shouldn't feel the way they do about a situation especially when they explained quite clearly why they feel that. Never tell us how we should feel. That's how you get a reaction that results in people not shopping with you again. A customer does not owe a company anything. Your organisation exists to make a profit, and we as customers come to a business if it offers us the best service. I am providing you feedback because I would like to receive better service, and have noticed a slip in this service. I have bought many games from Gog and I expect better. What exactly do you mean by "we are not responsible for those arrangements"? CD Projekt RED develops the Witcher 3 and owns Gog. Your organisation could literally not be closer to the responsibility for the price hike. I am saying to you that Australians do not want a "fair price package", they just want a fair price. The same price as everyone else. It was a decision made by CD Projekt RED to enter a distribution arrangement that included regional pricing. Perhaps this was the only mechanism available to them to get the publishing they needed in the region, but that doesn't make it fair, and it doesn't make it acceptable. If people like me don't speak up, this kind of thing will not stop happening. I am saying I am tired of getting ripped off for games merely because I live in the sea when it's the very same chunks of binary being spread from the very same server farms around the world. I am stating, for the record, that I want Gog to do better. I expect better. Gog had set the standard for DRM-free gaming distribution, and it previously set the standard for pricing fairness. This is unfortunately no longer the case. I want to see the return of the good old Gog.
So there you have it. Don’t take ripoffs lying down. Complain about it, talk about it, publish blog posts about it. Ensure this discussion doesn’t go away until this archaic, shitful business model does.
Yesterday, DFAT requested a 30 day extension on a freedom of information request that requests access to documents regarding the ALRC’s copyright review in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
I declined, as the request is straight forward, and based on the money they requested I pay, they estimate it will take 9 hours to process.
Today, I received an email from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, informing me they have granted DFAT the 30 day extension: