iTWire - iTWire - Open Sauce iTWire - Technology news, trends, reviews, jobs Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:20:44 +1100 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb TPPA: Like Oliver Twist, the US always wants more TPPA: Like Oliver Twist, the US always wants more

Leak number four of the IP chapter of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a multi-country "free trade" proposal, tells us little more than the earlier leaked drafts. It does, however, give some reason for cheer.

While the treaty itself will bring nothing but doom and gloom for the man on the street, the fact that it is becoming unwieldy to negotiate in direct proportion to the increasing number of countries involved, is good news indeed. So far, there have been 20 rounds of talks. (Leaks: 1, 2, 3, 4)

Talks began in Canberra on October 19 to try again to reach the broad outlines of a deal and will go until Friday. Trade ministers of the countries involved will then meet in Sydney from October 25 to 27.

The World Trade Organisation's talks on a global trade treaty - the so-called Doha Round - went on and on and on. Finally the US, fed up with the inordinate delay, initiated the TPPA. Initially, there were eight countries, including Australia and New Zealand involved; now there are 12.

{loadposition sam08}The countries involved are the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and Chile. The US has been hoping each year that the treaty can be finalised and announced at the annual APEC conference which is held in November.

But that has been an annual ambition since 2011, the year after the talks began. Since March 2010, there have been 20 rounds of talks, in various parts of the world. With each session, it looks like the disagreements are growing.

For Australians, what is interesting to note is the way the government's proposals for data retention seem to dovetail neatly into the ambitions expressed in the TPP - mostly US-driven - to extend copyright beyond even what its most fervent supporters have wet dreams about.

Internet service providers are being asked to act as the watch-dogs for copyright holders - read the big film studios and music companies in the US - and this is sought to be made mandatory. Australian attorney-general George "you have a right to be a bigot" Brandis's data retention laws would be very helpful in this regard, a link I have drawn all along.

Indeed, the latest draft shows that any company which provides online services could well be asked to the police force that dobs in those who access copyrighted material without authorisation.

And even though there are safe harbour provisions for ISPs, this is made conditional on their agreeing to act as enforcers of what would be similar to a DMCA-like set of provisions for all countries involved.

The new draft seeks to make unauthorised access of a trade secret through a computer system a criminal offence, an obvious reference to the Edward Snowden affair.

The draft seeks a minimal copyright term for all TPPA participants, a modification of the earlier proposal to have an optimal term.

The current terms of copyright in the US border on the ridiculous. "...for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first."

How much more does Uncle Sam want?

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:50:25 +1100
Feature-creep will ensure that systemd stays Feature-creep will ensure that systemd stays

A few days back, the Debian project leader Lucas Nussbaum averred that the new init system, systemd, that has been made the default in Debian, could be avoided and that users could go back to the SysVinit.

Nussbaum was, no doubt, sincere in what he said. But his remedy to avoid what has become a major issue for many Debian users can only be used for so long.

Feature-creep is a major aspect of systemd. It seems to want to take over the entire Linux system and poke its tentacles into unwanted places. And there is no better way to describe this feature than the way senior systems administrator, Craig Sanders, did recently.

Sanders, a Debian developer himself, has that rare ability of being able to strip a great many things of hysteria and emotion - very common in the FOSS world - and stick to pure commonsense. With a few others, he resides in the no-BS zone. In this respect, what he has to say is worth reading.

{loadposition sam08}"The problem with systemd is not that it makes some minor changes to the init process, but that it tries to do too much," Sanders wrote in a post to one of the mailing lists of the Linux Users of Victoria a week ago, as part of a thread about Lennart Poettering's baby.

"If systemd just did init, then nobody would give a damn, but it's absorbing way too many low-level system functions into itself - udev has been merged; it does logging; has half-arsed substitutes for ntpd, cron, automount, inetd, and network configuration. This feature-creep is on-going, with more being absorbed into systemd all the time... and announced just a few days ago, a console daemon to replace the kernel's virtual terminals.

"Apart from the inevitable problems associated with being a jack-of-all-trades (and) master-of-none, the result will be the death of innovation for all functions absorbed into systemd as it is impossible to replace any one of them without replacing systemd entirely... which makes the job of developing improvements just too big a job.

"Right now, we have several alternatives to choose between for cron, ntp, logging, etc - each of them with different advantages and disadvantages. With systemd, it becomes a one-size-fits-all-or-else situation. If what it does doesn't suit you then tough luck, because you can't replace it without breaking your system.

"The second major problem with systemd is that it is becoming (or has become) mandatory - unnecessary dependencies on logind or systemd itself make it nearly impossible to avoid having systemd installed.

"At least, when Gnome jumped the shark with Gnome 3 there were alternatives like KDE, XFCE, LXDE, etc we could switch to. There'll be no such alternative for systemd. For a while it will still be possible to hang on to SysVinit or Upstart or whatever, but eventually the effort required to keep everything working with dependencies breaking stuff all the time will be too great."

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:15:57 +1100
No interest in Poettering's problems, says Torvalds No interest in Poettering's problems, says Torvalds

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has indicated that he has no interest in the problems faced by chief systemd developer Lennart Poettering that led to the latter blaming Torvalds for the negative feedback he (Poettering) has faced.

Poettering made his feelings known in a long and rambling post on October 1. Complaining about the amount of criticism he faced and the backlash to the adoption of systemd - an init system replacement which has taken over many additional functions - Poettering said Torvalds was the reason why people in the open source community behaved in this manner.

In his post, Poettering wrote: "The Internet is full of deranged people, no doubt, so one might just discount all of this on the grounds that the Open Source community isn't any different than any other community on the Internet or even offline. But I don't think so. I am pretty sure there are certain things that foster bad behaviour. On one hand there are certain communities where it appears to be a lot more accepted to vent hate, communities that attract a certain kind of people (Hey, Gentoo!) more than others do. (Yes, the folks who post the stuff they do usually pretty clearly state from wich community they come).

"But more importantly, I'd actually put some blame on a certain circle of folks that play a major role in kernel development, and first and foremost Linus Torvalds himself. By many he is a considered a role model, but he is quite a bad one. If he posts words like "[specific folks] ...should be retroactively aborted. Who the f*ck does idiotic things like that? How did they not die as babies, considering that they were likely too stupid to find a tit to suck on?" (google for it), than that's certainly bad. But what I find particularly appalling is the fact that he regularly defends this, and advertises this as an efficient way to run a community. (But it is not just Linus, it's a certain group of people around him who use the exact same style, some of which semi-publically (sic) even phantasize (sic) about the best ways to, ... well, kill me)."

{loadposition sam08}Asked for his reaction, Torvalds told iTWire that he was happy to join in what he described as "spirited discussions".

"I'll happily join 'spirited discussions' (aka flame wars) about actual technical issues, but Lennart's problems? I don't see why I'd want to get involved," he responded.

Torvalds is well known for his sharp and expletive-laded rejoinders to kernel developers - and at times developers of other software. But he has indicated in the past too that he has nothing much to criticise about the systemd project from a technical angle.

Torvalds has, however, levelled sharp criticism at one of the other systemd developers, Kay Sievers. Back in April, when Sievers showed an unwillingness to fix problems in his code that caused problems with the kernel, Torvalds let him have it with both barrels.

"Key (sic), I'm f*cking tired of the fact that you don't fix problems in the code *you* write, so that the kernel then has to work around the problems you cause," Torvalds wrote.

"Greg - just for your information, I will *not* be merging any code from Kay into the kernel until this constant pattern is fixed."

The reference to Greg was to Greg Kroah-Hartman, a senior kernel developer who is responsible for releases other than the current version.

Torvalds continued: "This has been going on for *years*, and doesn't seem to be getting any better. This is relevant to you because I have seen you talk about the
kdbus patches, and this is a heads-up that you need to keep them separate from other work. Let distributions merge it as they need to and maybe we can merge it once it has been proven to be stable by whatever distro that was willing to play games with the developers.

"But I'm not willing to merge something where the maintainer is known to not care about bugs and regressions and then forces people in other projects to fix their project. Because I am *not* willing to take patches from people who don't clean up after their problems, and don't admit that it's their problem to fix.

"Kay - one more time: you caused the problem, you need to fix it. None of this 'I can do whatever I want, others have to clean up after me' crap."

In many ways, Sievers' attitude is common to the entire systemd project; on many occasions, Poettering has indicated to others that if they have problems with systemd, then it's because their code is to blame, not his.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Thu, 09 Oct 2014 10:29:19 +1100
Systemd backlash: Poettering blames Linus Torvalds Systemd backlash: Poettering blames Linus Torvalds

Systemd developer and Red Hat employee Lennart Poettering has taken aim at Linux creator Linus Torvalds in a rant on his blog, in which he blames Torvalds for the extent of enmity directed at him (Poettering).

In a long, rambling outburst, Poettering, who is well known for being precious, has squarely put the blame for the negative feedback he has received - which, he claims, extended to death threats - "on a certain circle of folks that play a major role in kernel development, and first and foremost Linus Torvalds himself".

Describing the open source community as being full of a***holes, Poettering (pictured above wearing a T-shirt to rile Ubuntu chief Mark Shuttleworth who likened his critics to the US Republican offshoot, the Tea Party) does not touch in any way on aspects of his own behaviour that may have given rise to the opposition to his projects, the chief of which, systemd, has now been adopted by many major Linux distributions. It has generated a tremendous backlash since its adoption, particularly in the Debian community.

The amount of criticism is obviously getting to Poettering, despite his claims of having grown a thick skin. He writes: "The Linux community is dominated by western, white, straight, males in their 30s and 40s these days. I perfectly fit in that pattern, and the rubbish they pour over me is awful. I can only imagine that it is much worse for members of minorities, or people from different cultural backgrounds, in particular ones where losing face is a major issue."

{loadposition sam08}Exactly what led to this outburst is unknown but Poettering cites one mailing list post from Torvalds to Red Hat employee and systemd developer Kay Sievers, in which Torvalds wrote: "[specific folks] ...should be retroactively aborted. Who the f*ck does idiotic things like that? How did they not die as babies, considering that they were likely too stupid to find a tit to suck on?"

Poettering, of course, does not mention that this outburst came about when Sievers indulged in some stupid behaviour as far as his coding was concerned. And Sievers is a pretty senior developer.

Despite all his justifications, Poettering comes across as a cry-baby. And he has not heard of the old saying that people in glass houses should not throw stones. He has had plenty of memorable things to say on mailing lists himself. He appears to think he is without fault.

And his claim that the success of Linux is despite Torvalds is false. If Poettering can't stand the heat of being a prominent open source developer, then he would be well advised to get out of the kitchen.

Image courtesy

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Wed, 08 Oct 2014 18:33:08 +1100
Anti-terror laws are working so why do we need data retention? Anti-terror laws are working so why do we need data retention?

Last week, the Australian government gave the citizenry a good demonstration that the country's existing anti-terror laws work. Around 15 people were arrested in a massive show of strength by security forces, and there was wall-to-wall media coverage.

According to the authorities, these arrests saved the country from being witness to the random beheading of a member of the public - as happened in London about 16 months ago - and also ensured that Parliament House was not blown up. Not to mention various other unspecified atrocities that could not be made public.

This demonstrates clearly that all the Australian security agencies are doing an excellent job and that they have enough powers to keep the country safe.

But the government is not content with this - it is pushing a further tranche of anti-terror laws. And it also wants to bring in data retention, keeping data from mobile and internet use for two years.

{loadposition sam08}But why? Australia prides itself on being a free country and doing just enough to ensure the safety of its residents, not in removing people's freedoms and spying on them. Certainly not in putting the entire populace under a blanket of fear. Or am I wrong?

Data retention is said to be essential in stopping crime. And also in tracking those who infringe on copyright. And further in keeping track of people inclined to visit websites that are not kosher.

But given the events of last week, there is a very real case to say that the government should not try to fix something that is not broken.

If any group of security agencies can anticipate and stop activity of the sorts that the government claims they did, then there is absolutely no case for any further restrictions of any kind on the citizenry.

Either that, or we have to really suspect that the government has some other agenda on hand. We have to suspect that some outside power is forcing it to bring in all these draconian measures. We have to suspect that this is not meant for security of the people, but rather to keep the citizenry in jitters and living in fear that there are terrorist under our beds.

Image: Courtesy ASIO report to Parliament 2012-13

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:38:58 +1000
From next release onwards, Debian is tied to systemd From next release onwards, Debian is tied to systemd

From its next release onwards, Debian users will be forced to use just one init system - systemd. This much is clear from resolutions of the project's Technical Committee.

Anyone who installs Jessie from scratch will find that they are not offered no choice in the matter. This means that only the technically well-equipped will be able to make a switch in the event that systemd does not work as promised. Existing users of the testing stream will find, on checking, that their systems have been migrated over to systemd. Systems running the stable version of Debian have not been migrated across yet.

Debian project leader Lucas Nussbaum told iTWire: "The Debian Installer has already been modified to install systemd by default, and there are ongoing discussions on how to provide the best user experience during upgrades from wheezy."

Back in February, after much discussion and debate that often turned into shouting matches, the Technical Committee decided, via a casting vote from its head Bdale Garbee, that it would use systemd as the default init system for Jessie, the next release which is due to be released in November.

The committee left open the possibility that it would change its mind, were there to be a general resolution that mandated otherwise.

{loadposition sam08}To quote the resolution, "Should the project pass a General Resolution before the release of 'jessie' asserting a 'position statement about issues of the day' on init systems, that position replaces the outcome of this vote and is adopted by the Technical Committee as its own decision."

During the debate that led up to this decision, there was talk of supporting alternative init systems as well, so that Debian users would have a choice of which one to use. The debate canvassed upstart, SysV, and openRC. SysV is the existing init system.

But a further resolution on July 31 makes it abundantly clear that there will be nothing official about alternative init systems. This came about following the removal of support for upstart in a package.

The maintainer of tftp-ha had noted "Removing upstart hacks, they are ugly and upstart is dead now."

A long discussion ensued and following that the Technical Committee issued the following resolution: "The issue of init system support recently came to the Technical
Committee's attention again. For the record, the TC expects maintainers to continue to support the multiple available init systems in Debian.  That includes merging reasonable contributions, and not reverting existing support without a compelling reason."

It is notable that there is no language stating that it is mandatory to continue to support multiple init systems in Jessie. The committee only "expects" maintainers to continue to support other init systems. There is no compulsion, no hard-and-fast rule.

While systemd has been taken up by many distributions, including the big names Red Hat, Debian, Ubuntu, and SUSE, there are many issues around it which continue to agitate members of the open source community.

In fact, so severe is the dissatisfaction, that one developer, associated with a site known as boycott systemd, has started a fork of systemd called uselessd, that will strip away a lot of the functions of systemd. Things like journald, libudev, udevd, and superfluous unit types are stripped out.

Uselessd also allows for porting to the BSDs. Systemd is a Linux-only init system and the developers have ensured that it will be very, very difficult to port to any of the BSDs.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:20:36 +1000
Film companies want US-style system to penalise downloaders

The copyright industry's response to the government's proposal to curb the unauthorised downloading of online content remains the same as it was years and years ago: it wants everyone else to take responsibility, and wants to reap the rewards.

The 43-page draft of the industry's response to an online copyright infringement draft circulated by the Attorney-General George Brandis and the Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull was leaked by the online news website Crikey on Thursday. The ministers had sought submissions in response to their draft.

The response is from the usual suspects who are fronts for American movie giants - the Australian Screen Association (ASA), the Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA), the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA), the National Association of Cinema Operators (NACO) and the Australian Independent Distributors Association (AIDA).

The government itself had indicated that it supported laws which would invalidate the 2012 High Court ruling in the case brought against ISP iiNet, which held that the service providers are not responsible for copyright violations that take place on their services.

{loadposition sam08}The copyright industry backs this wholeheartedly and would like legislation in place to make the ISP solely responsible for policing, reporting and preventing infringements. "Copyright owners would pay their own costs of identifying the infringements and notifying these to the ISP, while ISPs would bear the costs of matching the IP addresses in the infringement notices to subscribers, issuing the notices and taking any necessary technical mitigation measures," the draft says.

The industry essentially wants the American system to be put in place in Australia - one where the ISP issues notices, slows down connections, and plays the role of enforcer.

The copyright industry notes that it cannnot sue individuals as this is not a practical solution. Other people have to do the dirty work.

The draft raises the fact that under international treaties - the Digital Agenda Act, the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the US-Australia free trade agreement - Australia has obligations to act to curb the downloading of content. Though not mentioned, there are a large number of clauses in the Trans Pacific Partnershp Agreement, which is being negotiated, that make similar demands.

ISPs would be expected to reduce bandwidth for those who download content that is deemed to be unauthorised, block websites which host such content, limit the web acivity of offending subscribers and force them to do an educational tutorial on copyright.

The retention of web data for two years, again proposed by the government, will help the cause of the copyright industry. It will not help anyone else as pointed out previously.

Rather gratuitously, the copyright industry draft says that it does not propose the cutting off of offenders. But it does not go into detail as to what use an internet connection running at dial-up speeds would be in this day and age.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:36:25 +1000
NSA's data collection hasn't helped. Why is Australia doing it? NSA's data collection hasn't helped. Why is Australia doing it?

For more than a decade, the US National Security Agency has been scooping up the personal data of Americans and people around the world, at its own will and pleasure.

In its mission, which was surreptitiously given legitimacy by the Bush administration after the 2001 Trade Centre attacks, the NSA has been aided by British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand agencies. There has been no shortage of data.

Britain's GCHQ has a prime spot for data collection, at the point where massive internet cables emerge from the Atlantic. And it's all sent to Uncle Sam.

In fact, there is so much material that the NSA is busy building a massive new data centre in Utah to house all the bits and bytes it has been storing away.

{loadposition sam08}And now Australia wants to bring in laws to retain data for two years. It also has a whole new raft of so-called anti-terror laws, which it is trying to scare the nation into accepting.

But has the NSA's massive operation helped in any way to reduce the terrorist threat? Has it stopped any terrorist activity? Has it helped to predict any forthcoming problems that might create problems for the US (or its allies) in other parts of the world?

The NSA never saw Boston coming. It did not see the crisis in Iraq, caused by the so-called Islamic State, developing. It has not predicted even a single domestic gun massacre, despite having data to kill.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is trying to convince people that the domestic spook agencies - the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) - will be able, using similar data, to predict and anticipate the kinds of events that the Americans have not been able to detect.

Yet nobody is asking how this will be achieved. Are the Australian agencies in some way superior to their American counterparts? Or do they have some secret weapon which the rest of the world does now know about?

Remember, the amount of data that Australia proposes to collect is minuscule in comparison to the NSA's treasure trove.

Abbott cannot ask the US to share its NSA data for the simple reason that it would be politically disastrous: first, he would be admitting that Australian agencies have been supplying the Americans with whatever they have demanded over the years, and secondly, he would have to traverse a legal minefield because the data is not housed in Australia.

The Australian spies, some of the best bureaucrats and worst detectives, would have to use data which is located in Australia. Hence their push for data retention within the borders of this country.

You'd have to ask: why isn't the media screaming out about this issue? Why aren't politicians being put under pressure to prove that their push to spy on residents has some logic behind it?

Abbott knows that the issue of national security can be used to wedge people. Political parties who oppose such laws would be accused of putting the country's security at risk. Journalists who accuse him of crying wolf ditto.

And given that most of the Australian media is controlled by one man - whose only interest is seeing that his media organs serve his business interests - the cry from the fourth estate is barely a whimper.

In his bid to pass these laws, Abbott is killing at least a couple of birds with a single stone. One, the Americans want data retention laws in place so that copyright infringers can be tracked. They want data on Australians to feed to their multinationals which will be trying to boost their sales in the 11 countries that are part of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a so-called free trade deal, that is being negotiated.

All the focus on national security is also helping to raise Abbott's standing in the polls. He seems almost desperate to commit Australian forces to join any activity that the Americans may undertake in Iraq - even though Australia's military assets are tiny. Leaders love a good war - it helps them no end, especially when the conflict can be styled as one that is between good and evil. And who is more evil at the moment than the militant group trying to establish an Islamic state in Iraq and Syria?

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Thu, 28 Aug 2014 11:37:29 +1000
SumOfUs Facebook protest is a waste of time SumOfUs Facebook protest is a waste of time

Internet protests are a great way for lazy people to show that they are bothered about what is going on around them. One only has to lift a finger and do little else: a keyboard click suffices to show that one is an activist and a humanitarian. Or anything for that matter.

The latest protest that has come to my attention is one against Facebook Messenger, launched by a group called SumOfUs. Now it is the right of any group to launch any kind of protest. A few rational considerations, however, would prevent people from looking both silly and stupid.

According to SumOfUs - it must have taken quite some time to come up with such a ridiculous moniker - they fight for people over profits. I'm not sure when they launched their latest clickbait - that's one of the great weaknesses of the internet, very few documents have a date - but it was probably recently, given that one of the organisers, Kaytee Riek, informed iTWire editor Stan Beer about it in an email dated August 17.

Briefly put, through this petition, the group wants to "Tell Facebook to stop invading its users' privacy and allow people to keep using the old messenger feature." Apparently this new app requires a lot of personal information in order to operate on a mobile - and anyone posting messages to their Facebook "friends" from an iOS or Android device has no choice but to use the application.

{loadposition sam08}SumOfUs wants to collect half a million signatures and then hope to influence Facebook. That's very high hopes, indeed. The site says, "...if we can make this petition huge, Facebook will have to listen and get rid of this invasive new app." Sure. And the moon is made of blue cheese. And Elvis was spotted at the MCG on Saturday.

A number of questions present themselves - is one prevented from posting messages to one's Facebook friends altogether if one does not use the new Facebook Messenger? The short answer is no. One can perform this function from one's laptop or desktop without the new app. It is required when one is using Facebook's mobile app. Here is an article which busts some other myths about the app.

Confusion exists because when one installs the app on an Android device, a pop-up explains that the app requires permission to access the device's camera, microphone, list of contacts and other information. On an iOS device, every time one wants to perform a particular function, one gets a pop-up describing the kind of permissions required. Apple has a far better system for this than Android.

The app was first released in 2011, so the SumOfUs people appear to have been asleep at the wheel for a while. And Facebook requires the same breadth of permissions for every single thing.

It's not only Facebook. There are a slew of corporations that make their living out of selling personal data and this kind of activity has been going on for a long time. The problem is that the users want it all: they want a website which gives them space to do what they want, they want it free, and they want complete privacy. The only thing they don't demand is that the corporation in question pay them for becoming members.

This can be only described as chutzpah. With a capital C.

It's a characteristic of the narcissistic generation that has grown up around the internet, people who are willing to do nothing for others, and want everything focused on themselves.

Facebook - like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, and a thousand others - are all companies that offer certain services. For those, each wants its pound of flesh. If you don't want to give them that pound, then don't deal with them. In some cases, there are alternatives. In others, one has to do without.

But this business of meaningless protests - remember the one about Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army, when millions signed the petition and yet hardly a handful showed up for the actual physical protest? - is a total waste of time.

SumOfUs says that Facebook plans to monetise its Messenger app. So what? That's the prerogative of the company. The irony is that these whingers want to use Facebook, from all their computing devices, and then they want to set the terms of service. I have never heard of anything quite so ridiculous in my life. And I wasn't born yesterday.

Image: corutesy

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:40:10 +1000
Like many other things, Australian data retention laws are outsourced

Last week, the Australian government announced that it plans to introduce data retention laws to store what it defines as meta-data for up to two years, in order to be prepared to fight terrorism.

Curiously, this comes at a time when there has been no rise in the level of the terrorist threat in Australia.

This week, the Americans are here, ably represented by Secretary of State John Kerry (him of the coiffed hair) and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel. And still many refuse to see the connection.

One simple question needs to be asked of our elected representatives - why announce the laws the week before the annual AUSMIN meetings, when Australian ministers meet their American counterparts for the annual give and take (mostly take for the Americans) sessions?

{loadposition sam08}The American visit has a dual purpose. One, is to make sure Tony Abbott stays on the true and narrow and does not give in to public pressure as far as the data retention proposal goes. And second, the Americans would like a little "contribution" to what they plan to do in Iraq - to safeguard their oil interests. On the surface, they are all about trying to save the Yazidis, a minority group, from the advancing Islamic State fanatics. But, hey, if that oily stuff wasn't present below the sand in Iraq, the Americans would be thinking twice.

As an aside, it is good to remember that for a long time, the American military has operated as mercenaries - though to say that out loud would be tantamount to sacrilege. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Americans led a group of countries to evict the Iraqis - all to enforce the rule of law, mind you, it had nothing to do with the fact that Iraq just happens to have a bit of oil under its soil.

The US ended up with a profit on that venture - various countries paid up, to the tune of $US54 billion, to fund the smashing of Saddam Hussein's army. The cost of the war to the US was put at $US9 billion. And the Americans also got a chance to test out all those fancy weapons.

A lot of media energy is being diverted to poke fun at the way the Australian government has bungled the selling of the data retention laws to the public. That doesn't matter - when was Attorney-General George Brandis anything better than a buffoon?

What seems to escape many is the fact that the laws for data retention will be drafted by people at the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). They know what they want and they will demand their pound of flesh. The government really has no choice in the matter because the demand is coming from its overlord in Washington.

But let's leave that aside. The retention of meta-data will help to track down copyright violators and the egregious ones will be singled out by rights holders for scare tactics. With the US pushing hard to finalise the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, a so-called free trade deal that is is negotiating with 11 other countries including Australia, American companies have to be given their pound of flesh.

]]> (Sam Varghese) Open Sauce Wed, 13 Aug 2014 22:12:28 +1000