Data Mandates Welcome A Global Police State

Caveat emptor or buyer beware is a frame of mind that is widely leaving Internet users unprotected by the law in light of today’s anti-terror climate.

With the same privacy and security concerns being echoed around the world as surveillance bills are giving birth to a global police state, I can’t help but notice that cyber security policies are increasingly working against us rather than for our protection and we’re all but left to our own devices to protect our personal information online.

Most distinctly of late, a number of new bills and changes to cyber-security laws have sparked alarm over what this means for our security and privacy rights.

Despite general laws in Australia such as the Privacy Act and Telecommunications Act 1997 set out to handle certain telecommunications related personal information, these do little to protect our privacy online when setbacks such as the Data Retention Bill just passed have cast a weary eye on the true motives of government mandates.

For which I voice again – post Edward Snowden and Wikileaks documents scandal still looming as a dark horse over the state of surveillance concerns involving PRISM, we expected no more Bills passed in the shadow of state terror alerts.

Yet today’s global telecommunication sphere is struggling to escape the slow but sure takeover of mass surveillance with avenues for covert data-mining by governments becoming ever prevalent.

Australia’s not alone in recent cyber-security legislative changes. The drafting of China’s first anti-terror law means telcos and ISPs are required to hand over encryption keys and install backdoors to software to aid counter-terror investigations which means access to companies most sensitive data becomes more vulnerable.

America also follows suit with the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act or CISA bill being pushed forward designed to encourage data sharing between private companies and governments.

France’s new proposed intelligence bill is also flagging another abuse of power by governments, expanding various measures to become an ever effective watchdog over our telecommunication channels and right from the heart of the United Nations.

The recurring ‘anti-terror’ concern in today’s cyber security climate is seeing to companies and ultimately our rights being left in the dark against data retention. The loosely defined definition of ‘terrorism’ including “thought, speech, or behaviour” that attempts to “influence policy making” is not specific on acts of violence that pose a real threat for national concern. Rather, with definitions remaining open-ended and vague, new legislative definitions potentially overstep the bounds of the freedom of religion defined under international human rights law and promises to enforce a system of complete, permanent digital surveillance.

As Senator Ron Wyden, a member of America’s Senate’s intelligence committee eloquently put:

“If information-sharing legislation does not include adequate privacy protections then that’s not a cybersecurity bill—it’s a surveillance bill by another name.”

Essentially, but all too late for Australia, that is exactly what these bills are.

Which begs me to ask – with the United States and China already coming head to head over the control of the South China Sea territories which has only been further aggravated by the China-led infrastructure development bank debut, is the timely alignment of cyber-security agendas just another heat over who can take the lead on more data or a genuine ‘anti-terror’ concern?

I for one, don’t think the rest of the world following a likeness to the Great Firewall of China on surveillance agendas looks promising for our civil liberties.

Hoi Sze Lam

Hoi Sze Lam is an autodidact of all things digital marketing, and is a privacy advocate with a keen interest in cyber affairs. Given the time she reads, breathes and follows good food, wood fires, travel and technology from down under.

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