07 August, 2014

Addressing the issue

There are many articles about the government’s new plan to force ISPs to collect and retain customers’ activity data written by people far smarter than me.  One that I particular recommend is by Geordie Guy here: You want my metadata, George Brandis? Get a warrant.

The government insists it is “only” collecting metadata, which Tony Abbott says is like the address on the front of an envelope.  Attorney General George Brandis repeated the analogy in a truly cringeworthy interview where he insisted that recording the “electronic address” of a website in no way reveals the content of that website.

To choose an analogy close to Senator Brandis’ heart, that’s like saying an ISBN doesn’t tell you the title, author, subject and edition of a book.

Mind you, the address on a letter, while still being a grossly misleading over-simplification, is perhaps more apt than Abbott and Brandis realise – and not in any way that supports their case.

We all have Google Street View. Give me a random address on an envelope and within two minutes, I’ll show you a picture of the house.

From that picture, we can begin to build a profile of the resident. We can get an idea of their socio-economic status; their habits, like how often they weed the garden; whether they have the curtains open at a particular time of day; what type of car they drive…  It’s not innocuous information. It tells you a lot, and more than it used to.

And if metadata didn’t contain any meaningful, identifiable information, why would anyone want to have it?

There is no doubt we are being governed by luddites.  A perennial question of mine when it comes to idiotic policy is: Are they stupid, or do they think we’re stupid?  This is one case where I’m certain of the answer, and it’s both.  They are stupid and they think we’re just as stupid as they are.

Kirribilli House earlier this year

Playing the platitudes
I heard a grab of Bill Shorten speaking at the MH17 memorial today saying, “Remember not how they died but how they lived.”

I know that a memorial should be as much a celebration of life as mourning death, and I know that’s the kind of thing you’re supposed to say at memorials, but this is really disingenuous.  As if we would be remembering these people in this way if not for how they died.  I’m sure they were all lovely people and I have the greatest sympathy for all their friends and families, but the truth is that we would not be honouring them this way if they had died differently, separately and at different times.

Yes, we should remember them for how they lived but that’s not why we’re remembering them.  Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that we’re remembering them as victims of an atrocity.

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