Parliament's poor porn probe exposed

Summary:Accusations of NSW government resources being used to watch porn abounded last week, even ending in one minister's resignation. However, parliament's audit process was deeply flawed.

Accusations of NSW government resources being used to watch porn abounded last week, even ending in one minister's resignation. However, parliament's audit process was deeply flawed.

New South Wales Ports Minister Paul McLeay submitted his resignation last week after admitting to using his parliamentary computer to access pornography and gambling sites. It was also alleged that Fred Nile, leader of the socially-conservative Christian Democrats, had recorded 200,000 "suspects hits" under his own log-in.

However, as the story unfolded, it was revealed that a "suspect hit" could be recorded just by visiting a web page containing links to any adult content, a category that included advertisements for dating services. That included perfectly acceptable mainstream news sites such as news.com.au and smh.com.au. Nile, it seems, may have been falsely accused of misbehaviour.

In Patch Monday this week, Stilgherrian runs through the story so far and considers the policy and privacy implications. The chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, Professor Roger Clarke, says parliament's audit process was "ignorant", and that its policy of keeping web usage logs for seven years is "ridiculously long".

Moving beyond the politics, there are wider questions about appropriate personal use of workplace computers.

What policies should be in place? How should incidents of misuse be handled? Where do you draw the line between an employer's legitimate rights to investigate misuse and an invasion of privacy? We hear from human resources and technology specialist Michael Specht from Melbourne-based consultancy Inspecht.

Patch Monday also includes Stilgherrian's random look at some of the week's IT news headlines.

To leave an audio comment for Patch Monday, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney 02 8011 3733.

Running time 31 minutes, 44 seconds

Extra reading:

Topics: Censorship, Government, Government : AU, IT Employment

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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