Australians voice anger over online spying

Only 3 percent of surveyed ZDNet Australia readers believe Internet service providers should monitor all user activity, following a parliamentary report that recommends that user logs should be kept on customers’ online activities.

SYDNEY--Only 3 percent of surveyed ZDNet Australia readers believe Internet service providers should monitor all user activity, following a parliamentary report that recommends that user logs should be kept on customers’ online activities.

The slim support for tighter online monitoring was in contrast to a resounding 60 percent of polled readers who said they would kick up a fuss until the law was changed, if ISPs were forced to maintain access logs.

The report by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the National Crime Authority (NCA) has spurred a barrage of criticism from both civil liberties groups and consumers, whilst ISPs have responded cautiously as to what their stance would be if maintaining access logs--which could be used as evidence by law enforcement agencies--was to become part of their daily routine.

”I'm not entirely sure what the government, in conjunction with the NCA, is attempting to achieve. I mean, if this is all to try and stop crime in general, then why target the Internet? Why not monitor our driving destinations, our phone calls and our snail mail? If the short answer is ‘because it's not possible’ and not ‘because it's improper’ then that is scary indeed,” Anthony Abrami, an IT systems officer from Tasmania, told ZDNet Australia.

“If the aim is to target pornography and illegal software, then surely the focus should be to target the offending sites, shouldn't it? I think stiffer penalties for offenders would also serve as a better deterrent--maybe this is what the government and the NCA should be lobbying for. At present, it appears all that they're lobbying for is giving us a taste of what paroled prisoners must experience.” he added.

Only 17 percent of polled ZDNet readers said they would consider giving up using the Internet if the online monitoring was enforced.

In an earlier interview with ZDNet, security specialist Glenn Miller described the retention of access logs by ISPs as “covert spying”--engaging people who are not law enforcers and do not therefore have the necessary skills or the right to access personal information in this way.

There is the general belief that if you’ve got nothing to hide, then there’s nothing to worry about, but there’s no guarantee that the people who have access to the information (ISPs) will use it properly, Miller said.

Customers are also of the belief that online activity logs could be accessed and used by the wrong people for the wrong reasons. “Commercial data mining under the pretense of observing the activities of the customers for the benefit of society might be one way the acquired information could be misused,” another ZDNet reader suggested.

Whatever the outcome, from the majority of the responses ZDNet has received, it is widely believed that that government will be over-stepping the line if it enforces such an invasion of privacy.

“Hitler never had it this good,” ZDNet reader Gavin Cooper, said. “Bring on the Mind Police. Trotting out the old ‘nothing to hide’ argument just won't wash. I trust those who use these services are ready to stand up for their democratic rights…there are those in government that will push this line, if for no other reason than their own twisted power trips, as Hitlers' fanatics did.”

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