ALPanic: louder, harder and dumber
Monday June 07th 2010, 7:01 am

oh noes, it's TEH PRIVACEY VIERLATION
oh noes, it’s teh privacey violasion!!!11!!eleven!!!

The mighty Mark Newton tweets:

Polls bad? Watch for panicky crap from the Govt over the next week. Same things they’re losing popularity for, only louder, harder, dumber.

It’d be one thing if the Rudd government’s popularity panic led them to fix the almighty fuckups that are actually causing them to lose support, in particular, the ponderously misbegotten plan for mandatory internet censorship… but instead of pulling out the boot they’ve got stuck in the mud, they not only put the other boot in… but proceed to dive into the muck facefirst.

Case in point:

Federal police asked to probe Google

The Federal Government has asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate internet giant Google over alleged privacy breaches.

Last month, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy labelled Google “creepy” and accused the company of committing the “single greatest breach in the history of privacy” when it collected information from wireless networks.

Google says it mistakenly collected the data and has apologised.

Australian Attorney-General Robert McClelland says his department has received numerous complaints and he has asked the Federal Police to investigate possible criminal breaches.

“Obviously I won’t pre-empt the outcome of that investigation but they relate in substantial part to possible breaches of the Telecommunications Interception Act, which prevents people accessing electronic information other than for authorised purposes,” Mr McClelland said.

“Whether there are charges in the first place is a matter for the Federal Police but in light of concerns that had been raised by the public, my department … thought there were issues of substance that required police investigations.”

First and foremost, Google were dead-nuts stupid for admitting any error. Open WiFi access points are left open because their owner wants them used by anyone within range. If they’re secured, the owner doesn’t want them used to pass data. Regardless, access points pipe up and identify themselves to any wireless device within range. They’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Google’s not alone in collating this sort of data. There’s several companies which collect data on WiFi access points, open or secured, and use this information to improve geolocation in areas where GPS doesn’t work so well. The presence of a wireless access point doesn’t mean that the device has to be used to pass data. It can function as a beacon, a signpost, if you will.

The mere fact that Google may have mapped WiFi access points is utterly immaterial. If this is ‘breaching privacy,’ then every single WiFi enabled device which scans for a network- every laptop, every iPad, every iPhone, every wireless tablet computer (as pictured above), etc- is ‘breaching privacy.’ My notiPad tablet sees my neighbours’ wireless access points- they’re secured, so I can’t use them to shift any data, but the tabby still sees them. Am I breaching my neighbours’ privacy?

In full-tilt-boogie panic mode, Conroy is looking for any means possible to gain some voter support with elections looming, perhaps as soon as August. Conveniently for Conjob, a bunch of stupid people who don’t understand how wireless devices work have posted uninformed whinges on news story comments and perhaps also have lodged complaints with A-G McClelland.

As a result of the Enex testing of the proposed censorship system, Conroy knows he can’t filter YouTube or Google without breaking the system. No censorship system short of the Great Firewall of China could cope with filtering high traffic websites like Google and YouTube without dramatically slowing- or even stopping entirely- Australian internet access. Conroy’s tremendously put out that Google won’t play ball and voluntarily censor YouTube, so he’s clutching at any straw he can find, no matter how weak and twisted his claim may be, to harass Google into compliance with his and Rudd’s bullshit censorship regime.

This tempest in a teacup about mapping WiFi access points is just the sort of thing Conroy thinks he can twist into some popular opposition to Google. Unfortunately for Conroy, about 96-99% of Australian internet users would rather trust mega-corporate giant Google with a map of WiFi access points than would ever, in a bazillion years, trust the Australian Government with a secret, mandatory internet censorship system.

So, here’s what’s going to happen: The Australian Federal Police will go back to A-G McClelland and tell him that there’s been no laws broken. McClelland will shrug his shoulders and tell Conroy that he’s got no claim against Google. Conroy will then run to the press, arms waving, hands wringing, and say he’s going to introduce laws against this eeeevul Google mapping of WiFi access points, conveniently ignoring the fact that every mobile WiFi enabled device in Australia does this very thing, billions of times a day.

If there’s anything ‘creepy’ going on at this moment, it’s Conroy’s atavistic interpretation of privacy legislation and lame, nefarious attempt to get his way with invading Australian internet users’ privacy via his and Rudd’s mandatory internet censorship conjob.

I’ll make a couple more broad, sweeping predictions: Conroy’s GONE… and if Rudd doesn’t rapidly wise up and publicly, permanently and decisively shitcan his stupid plans to censor the internet, Labor is going back into the political wilderness at the Federal level.

Downside? We get theocracy with Mad Monk Abbott’s Liberal party.

*sigh*

-weez


5 Comments so far
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If the federal election is after my 18th birthday (a big if, considering that’s in late October, but I’m hoping) I’m definitely voting below the line and putting Conroy as close to last as I can. Every time he speaks he seems to get stupider and more offensive. On the bright side, my dad – who’ll definitely be voting – is planning to do the same thing!

Comment by Jessica 06.07.10 @ 11:11 am

Be very nice to your wise Dad, Jess.

You’re quite right, Conroy seems to never have heard the phrase ‘when in a hole, stop digging.’

I do hope you get to vote this time out! Do you live in Conroy’s electorate?

Comment by weez 06.07.10 @ 10:49 pm

From the same article: Electronic Frontiers Australia says the AFP investigation is warranted.

Spokesman Geordie Guy says Google may have broken the law.

“Google set about to collect information that was publicly visible about people’s wireless internet connections and they were going to use that as part of some of their products which use what is called geolocation, for showing you where you are,” he said.

I shudder to think what laws I’ve broken if someone ever decides to investigate what they think I might do in the future!

Comment by Sandy 06.08.10 @ 1:33 am

Sandy, I don’t think Geordie’s right. The act of obtaining the information about the location of existing WiFi hotspots is no different to what any iPhone, tablet PC, etc. do, and that can’t be unlawful. If you transmit a signal, you should reasonably expect someone will receive it. It’s like growing flowers in your front yard and then expecting no one to look at them. If you don’t want your flowers looked at, grow them in the back yard or put up a fence.

I take your point about Google’s use of the data, that they had not done anything with it yet. Mind, even if they had published a map with an overlay showing WiFI hotspots, this would appear to be in the public interest. Lots of people use portable WiFi devices and would like to know where to find an access point. Use of WiFi hotspots for supplanting GPS geolocation is a possible use, also in the public interest. Google did not hang around in front of someone’s house, attempting to decrypt data streams- they merely collected information about the location of the access points.

Our less-than-genius Senator Conroy suggested that Google may have collected internet banking passwords. This is because Conroy’s never heard of encryption before. The encryption used for internet banking (in fact, any https:// connection) is pretty strong stuff and would take supercomputer CPU-days to break.

Comment by weez 06.08.10 @ 5:33 am

Google may sack ‘rogue’ Wi-Fi code writer

Do ya reckon Apple will sack the ‘rogue’ coder who gave the iPhone the ability to scan for WiFi hotspots?

Comment by weez 06.08.10 @ 8:44 pm



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