Are You Comfortable with the Government Recording Your Browsing Activity?

Having read an article at ZDNet today, I became aware of a confirmation from the Attorney-General’s department that it had been investigating a mandate for ISPs to record the browsing history of its customers. This comes after the introduction of similar laws in the EU back in March 2006 which required carriers in specific  member states to retain data for up to 24 months.

I have covered privacy related issues in prior blog posts, including:

What concerns me is that this Government seems to be stuck on the idea of filtering and monitoring each and every Internet connection in this country under the guise of combating paedophilia and terrorism. Furthermore, anyone that seems to be opposed to their ideals is labelled as being a supporter of child pornography and criminal activity.

Colin Jacobs, the chair of Electronic Frontier Australia made a comment with which I agree whole-heartedly:

“At some point data retention laws can be reasonable, but highly-personal information such as browsing history is a step too far. You can’t treat everybody like a criminal. That would be like tapping people’s phones before they are suspected of doing any crime.”

I see this sort of monitoring as a pre-emptive activity to filtering the web, particularly if the current or future Government can gauge the popularity of dissenting content and then quite easily add it to the blacklist. This is a significant threat against the free flow of information on the Internet and net neutrality on the whole.

Of course, there are VPN solutions that would get around the issue but would require some sort of awareness on the part of the user to setup and configure.

Maybe it’s me but I would be really concerned about how the major political parties in Australia approach this topic. I would really like to see the Greens get a good boost in support in the next election for people looking to send a message. However, such a movement would rely upon people being informed and sadly I do not think that the vast majority of people would have enough of an understanding or interest to enact such a groundswell.

So if you think this is a real issue, talk about it with your family and friends and the implications that it could have in the future.

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