Peter Dutton wants your dick pics

The great cartoonist and illustrator Ron Cobb once depicted a horrifically authoritarian future, where citizens are assigned classifications, subject to strict curfews, and heavily armed military with listening devices and spy cameras keep a vigilant watch. ?Well,? one B Citizen says to another. ?At least we don?t have to worry about anarchy any more??

The threat ? real or actual ? may have changed since the 60s, but the impulse to misguided authoritarianism characteristic of governments remains the same. Quote:

A push to compel Australia’s telecommunications companies to install spyware on customers’ phones under broad new security plans could be “severely damaging” to the country’s cybersecurity, the industry has warned.

Telcos are part of an expanded group, which includes device makers like Apple, search engines like Google, and social media apps like Facebook, which could potentially be compelled to help federal authorities gain access to encrypted communications, according to submissions made on a draft bill currently before parliament for consideration.

Agencies could oblige a device manufacturer to preload (and then conceal) tracking or screen capture software (spyware) on commercial handsets which could be activated remotely,” said a joint submission lodged by the Communications Alliance (the representative body for Telstra, Optus and device manufacturers like Nokia and Huawei), the Australian Information Industry Association and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. End of quote.

Given that Huawei, for one, was barred from access to Australia?s 5G network because of national security concerns. Chinese state-owned companies are notorious for stealing intellectual property and acting as backdoors for Communist party spying. Installing software specifically designed to spy on users seems tantamount to just handing over keys and ID to thieves. Quote:

The Digital Industry Group, the representative body for tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Twitter, has reportedly made a submission warning that these proposed “security vulnerabilities, even if they are built to combat crime, leaves us open to attack from criminals”.

Even the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) the body that oversees the technical operation of the network, took the unusual step of commenting on the bill. End of quote.

The impulse behind this legislation is understandable: it?s not a matter of power-hungry madmen deliberately wanting to spy on everyone. But the eternal truth of politics remains: ?looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies?.

In this case, the diagnosis isn?t even completely wrong. Quote:

“Criminal syndicates and terrorists are increasingly misusing and, indeed, exploiting these technologies,” Mr Dutton said in a speech last week introducing The Assistance and Access Bill 2018 to Parliament. End of quote.

This is true. But installing dangerous spyware on everyone?s devices is not the solution. Britain is one of the most surveilled countries in the world. All those spy cameras have done a sterling job in reducing their crime rate.

My grandmother used to say, ?Locks and bars only keep honest people out?. The crims and ragheads immediately find a workaround, and everyone else will just be left vulnerable to Chinese hackers.

Of course, there?s the usual palaver about ?safeguards?, but given what we know for a fact about the massive domestic spying program of the Obama government (which its apparatchiks lied under oath about), why would any sane citizen trust any government? Quote:

A government spokesman insisted that the bill had “robust safeguards” to ensure that any help requested of industry was “reasonable and proportionate” and would not threaten the security of communications systems. End of quote.

Then along come the self-righteous hypocrites on the left of the house. Quote:

Labor has criticised what it argues is undue haste to pass the legislation with the bill introduced into Parliament just 10 days after submissions to its exposure draft closed. End of quote.

The legislation may be flawed, but let?s not pretend that Labor is acting from high-minded principle, here. They are, after all, the party which tried to saddle the media with a state censor and to criminalise WrongThink in even peoples? workplaces. If they got into power, who really believes for an instant that they?d repeal the legislation?

This is an appallingly bad idea.