Monday, December 22, 2008

Why don't we know which commercial entities are involved with ACMA?

I'd like to ask a very simple question:

Why don't we know which commercial entities are currently being consulted by ACMA in relation to the Government's ISP filtering plans?

The lack of this information presents a serious difficulty to our side of the debate. The pro-filtering vendor camp, who have a strong financial interest in the Government deciding to impose an ISP-filtering regime, have detailed knowledge of their own strength and weaknessess.

The anti-filtering camp doesn't even know who the vendors are and how far advanced their plans are. Without this knowledge, we can't effectively marshall our resources to do our own analyses of solutions being proposed.

I'd also like to know on what basis the CEO of iPrimus Ravi Bhatia can claim it is "It's easy for us to do it," when other ISPs don't even know if their EOIs have been accepted. Has iPrimus been working with ACMA in advance of the trial being announced? Does it already have filtering infrastructure built and in place? Or will it, too, be scrambling to build the infrastructure between now and when the trial is due to start on Wednesday?

"Mike The Participant", whoever he is, uses his position as an insider within part of the industry to accuse others, like Mark Newton, of being "ignorant". This is quite a call from someone who hurls insults from behind a pseudonym and is a beneficiary of a system that seems designed to keep us ignorant of what is being proposed.

Blatherings about commercial-in-confidence arrangements, particularly in a debate that goes to the core of what it means to be a free society in the 21st century, simply don't wash. Surely citizens contemplating the imposition of such draconian social controls as mandatory ISP-level filtering, deserve fully transparent disclosure and vigorous debate about the respective merits of the solutions being proposed?

Write to your Senators. Write to your local MPs. Write to the paper. Demand to know which commercial entities are working with ACMA and what the extent of their dealings have been to this point.

It is your right. This is, after all, still a democracy.


Jon Seymour said...

Here is an e-mail I sent to my local MP and to one of the NSW Senators and to various other Senators who have shown a willingness to fight this issue.

I am concerned that the Government is consulting with commercial entities that have a financial interest in ISP-level filtering regimes yet is denying opponents of the proposal the ability to conduct detailed analyses of the technical capabilities of these entities.

This is simply not cricket. Not for a Government that claims to have any respect at all for democratic principles.

As start I'd like to ask you to table the name of the vendors involved in the earlier trials and the details of the products used in those trials.

If you are not prepared to do this, I would like to know why you are preferencing the rights of commercial entities above the democratic right of a citizen to be governed by a transparent and accountable Government?

I would like to encourage the loyal opposition and the cross benches to also ask these questions in Parliament.

Stuart Anderson said...

I don't have any idea of the size of the filtering business, but isn't it a case of there only being a certain number of suspects?

Unless the Government is entirely stupid (and it's getting harder to tell each day) then I would presume that they are being as promiscuous with vendors as possible. Wouldn't it just be easier to assume that they are dealing with all of them?

Technically assessing a single filter product is hardly very different to testing multiple filter products. Vendors are going to use their core technology in any solution offered, and it's likely to be used in software that is available to the public already. Test that.

There would certainly be more leg work involved in digging up dirt on every company - but it would be a worthwhile venture, simply because the Government can always jump to any vendor at any point in the game - just because they are favouring some now, doesn't mean it's in the bag for those companies.

In defence of "Mike The Participant", if he is an employee of a company he might not be able to legally disclose who he is without getting himself into hot water. Certainly he couldn't disclose without getting fired (if he were working for me and I found out, I'd sack him). That being said, pushing a position anonymously isn't something I'm happy with - I respect his right to free speech (which, ironically, he couldn't possibly do in return whilst working at a company devoted rightly or wrongly to censorship) but I question the value of any position that he is unwilling to put his name to (for fear of the consequences). Additionally, anonymity makes it impossible to fact check some of his assertions and all of his credentials. This is a major issue.

Mike of Melb said...

Having seen some of the responses to my blog entries and considered those, I have to agree that many of my statements and the manner of their positioning was not suitable or fair.
I retract any statements that reference a persons capabilities and apologise for these. That was not correct of me.
Any statements from my side were based on discussions and industry knowledge over a longer period. No deals that I have any knowledge of, in the manner suggested here, have been done between ACMA and commercial entity that I either know of or have worked with in any capacity.
I am not an "insider" with more access to people that anybody else that has had, should they have been involved in this process and the security industry for so long.
Where I have apparently implied this, then this was badly chosen expression on my behalf. Again I apologise for this.
I admit that I have been caught up in the rising rhetoric and have clearly been over the top with mine. That will cease forthwith.
I have now clearly seen that using inflammatory language does not help this discussion at all, and regret any offence that any of you have perceived.
As far as I can see from the EOI docs and any discussions I have ever had, these upcoming tests are ISP driven and no direct arrangements of any kind have been made with any vendor. The ISP decides which technologies to use.