Australia: Where Big Brother hasn’t simply returned to television

With each day that passes, our freedoms are being stripped from us in silent back rooms by powerful and wealthy men (and possibly women with a smattering of glass in their hair).

Last month, the Attorney General set up a Parliamentary Inquiry into potential reforms of national security legislation. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has prepared a Discussion Paper which is available on their website.

The proposed reforms seek to force ISPs and phone companies to keep a record of every article you’ve read online, every item you’ve bought online and every email or text message you’ve sent for a period of two years, which is to be provided to the Government at its request.

The recurring argument of “if you have nothing to hide, it shouldn’t matter” is redundant.

If you knew that someone could use every bored or curious, late night internet browse, and every drunk, angry or joke text message that you’ve sent over the past two years to support any claims of terrorist activity, would it change the way in which you used these devices?

As someone who sometimes has difficulty sleeping and spends a lot of time watching serial killer/conspiracy/secret organisation documentaries, it certainly makes me pause. Used out of context, my entire internet and text message history would be damning.

When I read Orwell’s 1984 as a young teenager, the prospect of a world such as that horrified me. That sense of horror has never left me. The torture of being locked out of your mind lest you be reported for committing a thought-crime kept me awake many nights throughout that book, and in the days that have followed.

Personal phone and internet use has always been an extension of thought, whether it be blogging such as this, or seeking answers to the myriad questions we constantly have in our minds.

I don’t have anything to hide, I haven’t committed a crime and nor do I intend to, but the mere knowledge that the fact that I downloaded a book on the Order of Skull and Bones whilst watching a documentary on 9/11 conspiracies could possibly, one day be used against me to substantiate terrorism claims feels rather akin to being placed under surveillance by thinkpol, to me.

I don’t think I’m important enough to ever be in that situation but you never know what the future holds.

It is certainly true that laws need to be updated to reflect the gargantuan leaps technology has made, but that should not include mandatory data retention of internet/phone usage of every single Australian citizen on the off chance that one of them is a terrorist.

The risk of these powers being abused either by a Government (ours or otherwise) who wishes to silence someone, or by a criminal wishing to use the information for their own nefarious purposes are far too great to allow these legislative reforms to be passed.

On Monday 20th August (yes, this coming Monday), submissions regarding this inquiry close.

The Australian Greens have set up a submission form, pre-populated with a suggested letter which can be overwritten should you choose to do so.

Alternatively, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security website has information on how to prepare a submission as well as accepted formats.

I strongly urge you to enter a submission. Your very life and identity could be the casualty of complacency.


Endings and Beginnings, or, I got a new phone – Inbox me ur nmbrs

It was well past midnight when I finally made it to bed, much later than I had expected to. My journey to PillowTown had been delayed by the catastrophic discovery that my Nokia 2760 could no longer continue its brave struggle against time and fashionability.

Nokia 2760, 2007

I will miss your buttons and also that you were the size of my hand.

The situation was shocking in its expectedness. I had unknowingly missed out on receiving text messages for ten days (yet more evidence that I am a Popular And Social Person) and when Sid worked that out for me, the sudden flood of modern correspondence pushed that labouring heart to its limits, this time for good.

I spent a few hours with it today, smiling fondly at its worn edges and its perfect fit in my ridiculously small hand. Its buttons were more familiar to me in the dark than my own body, and each morning at the cold, 4am pee awakening, I knew just how many presses of the down button I needed to do to make it to the bathroom without having to assault my sleepy eyes with any other light source.

Inside me, a war was raging.

“It’s time, Bri”, reasoned one part of me.
“You’ve started a Twitter account, five million years after the rest of the world. It wasn’t so hard. Go. Go and get an iPhone”, she urged, shoving me in the back with her tiny peer pressure palms.

“Or, you could just get another one like this until you decide which smartphone you want”, said the other, more familiar part of me, clinging desperately to the comforts of a numberpad beneath her fingertips.

It really wasn’t a contest. I had started to avoid using my phone in public when Success is Measured By Having Things Bri had been let out of her cage following some superficial and generally self-administered blow to my ego.

The shop had run out of iPhones so I bought a Samsung Galaxy Something and proceeded to spent my entire night downloading apps, synchronising social media, and actively using the word ‘tweet’.

When I make changes in my life, they’re gargantuan.

Soon I will be Instagramming the shit out of boring shit and pretending anyone but me cares about it.

Just like I do with my cats.

And there it is; the sweet middle ground where the new changes meet the old routine and the transition from one to the other is effortless.