Is privacy gone in Australia? Who’s next?

In a recent article on Ars Technica the government of Australia was trying to run a bill through it’s Parliament to allow for the monitoring of business’ email and telecommunications transactions. The bill would amend it’s Telecommunications act and make it legal for the government to fill in the gap that companies IT departments leave by not tracking the problems themselves. In the United States and in Australia, it is generally accepted practice for companies to monitor all incoming and outgoing traffic including email. You’re using their computers so they want to make sure there is no corporate espionage or possible harassment suits in their future. In Australia, they feel that a telecommunications (especially email or botnet) breach is how cyber-terrorists are going to take down the country.

With that said, let me just say, “That’s a load of crap.”  As a consultant and past IT director I know from experience when companies really care about monitoring. I had a CEO once tell me, “I know not to mess with you [the IT guy]. I’m sure you know where all the bones are buried.” Now I must admit. There is a certain amount of power that can be misused being the IT guy. I could definitely look into what everyone is doing and have the company’s blessing IF I find something juicy that they need to stick it to the person of choice that is doing some sort of offense. According to almost every company’s IT policy I would be required to report the offense to Human Resources, corporate level staff, or sometimes the board of directors. That’s why I was never really a big fan of spying on people in this way. You’d start off looking for the bad guy and next you’d find yourself reading IM’s between two coworkers. Next thing you know you’re looking at them funny at lunch and noticing them go into the janitor’s closet or leaving at the same time.

This is the fundamental problem with monitoring. Drawing the line when you’ve been given the power. Even though I don’t believe the political rhetoric that they are trying to sell for a second even if it was true it would open the flood gates for irresponsibility. Why would the government need to protect companies from treats they didn’t see coming. If they were going to do that then they would also need to have advisors on the boards of some companies to save them from collapse from their own stupid decisions. Could you imagine if there was an advisor on the board of the movie industry when George Lucas was told he could keep the rights to Star Wars when he was making it? It’s one of the biggest business mistakes in history seeing as how the movie industry is going down but George Lucas is a billionaire from brand marketing Star Wars. Wouldn’t a company’s demise be important? Yes, but that’s not why they are in it.

In a recent movie called “The Bank Job” a true story is told about a person holding incriminating photos of British royalty and using them as leverage against arrest. The British government in turn hires some thugs to rob a bank’s safe deposit boxes to get the paperwork. This was in 1971 so you know it’s going on all over the world today. Australia’s law would just make it legal for the government to cut out the middle man and rob the bank themselves. If it turns out to work for them maybe your government (whatever country you’re in) will be next.

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