Blown To Bits

Australian Internet Filtering

Friday, October 17th, 2008 by Harry Lewis

Hard on the heels of yesterday’s story about logging all phone calls made, emails sent, and web sites visited in the UK, comes a story about a plan to filter all Internet content in Australia. Users would be able to opt out of the child-friendly level of filtering, but that would only drop you to a level where all illegal content would be filtered.

Problem is, of course, that what’s illegal can’t be determined automatically. Even filters against illegal pornography will inevitably filter much lawful content as well.

And then there is the small problem of encryption. When you make an online purchase using a credit card, no one on the path between your computer and the store’s computer can tell that the data packet being transmitted contains an encrypted credit card number. How could any government filter know that a packet contains illegal pornography (or, in the case of the child-friendly filter, material unsuitable for children)?

What about dirty jokes in obscure foreign languages? What about email discussing illegal acts — does that also qualify as illegal?

Such schemes are absurd, but that does not make them any less scary. There are many more surveillance camera enclosures sold than surveillance cameras. You only have to have people believe they are being watched to change their behavior.

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