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Conversations 12: Metadata & surveillance with Carly Nyst

Carly NystThe Australian government will soon introduce legislation making it compulsory for telecommunication companies to record the data about their customers’ use of their services for up to two years, and make it available to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. But is it the right way to go?

“This is very much the way in which western nations are going, it’s been the case in Europe under the European Data Retention directive for some little while now,” said Attorney-General George Brandis on 16 July.

But what he didn’t say was that the European Court of Justice has declared the blanket recording of telecommunications data to be a breach of human rights. It isn’t a proportionate response to the claimed threat, and there’s no evidence that it’ll actually even help.

“What we’re being asked to do is ourselves — innocent law-abiding citizens — to sacrifice our own liberties, our own rights, in the vague hope that it will somehow catch these handful of Nazi Pedos who are out there,” said Carly Nyst, London-based legal director of Privacy International.

“Nazi Pedos” is PI’s label for the “general all-encompassing bad person who lives on the internet”, says Nyst. Terrorists, pedophiles, cyber criminals, or whoever else we’re meant to be afraid of this week.

Nyst spoke about the legal and privacy issues surrounding the metadata proposals at public meeting titled “Data Retention: the European Experience”, organised by Electronic Frontiers Australia and the Australian Privacy Foundation. This episode of Corrupted Nerds: Conversations presents a lightly-edited version of that event, including questions and comments from the audience.

This conversation was recorded on 15 October 2014 in Sydney, Australia.

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Episode Notes

  1. Brandis introduces first tranche of update to national security laws, ABC Radio’s PM, 16 July 2014.
  2. Privacy International official website.
  3. Wikipedia entry for Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.
  4. Wikipedia entry for European Data Retention Directive.
  5. Quintet nations agree on cybercrime action plan, CSO Online, 17 July 2011.
  6. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
  7. News item of a report for the German parliament which showed that under that country’s mandatory data retention regime, crime clearance rates increased by a mere 0.006%.
  8. Carly Nyst’s opinion piece, Australia’s metadata grab will create modern-day Stasi files, Guardian Australia, 15 October 2014.
  9. Wikipedia entry for the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations.
  10. Electronic Frontiers Foundation’s database of all Edward Snowden and other NSA documents published so far.
  11. Security expert Brice Schneier’s blog post, The NSA is Not Made of Magic, 21 May 2014.
  12. Schneier joins EFF board in wake of NSA scandal, CSO Online, 28 June 2013.
  13. ‘I’ve Got Nothing to Hide’ and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy, Daniel J Solove, George Washington University Law School, 2007.
  14. Wikipedia entry for James Bamford, an American journalist who has written extensively on the NSA.
  15. Wikipedia entry for Edwin Black’s book IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation , first published in 2001. “In the book Black outlines the way in which IBM’s technology helped facilitate Nazi genocide through generation and tabulation of punch cards based upon national census data.”
  16. Wikipedia entry for Godwin’s Law.
  17. An episode of The 9pm Edict podcast, The 9pm Team Australia, in which I discuss the application and misapplication of Godwin’s Law. The relevant segment starts at 34 minutes 45 seconds and runs for a little over ten minutes.
  18. The annual report 2013-2014 (PDF) of the Australian Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (AIGIS).

[Photo: Original photo of Carly Nyst via Privacy International, not credited. Digital manipulation by Stilgherrian, available for re-use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license (CC BY-ND).]

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