I recently watched the newest revelations about the NSA from the ABC Four Corners (www,abc.net.au/4corners). Living and working in Australia has made me realise that at present we have a lot more freedom than most countries in the world, including the USA—or at least, we used to. The problem is that technology is eroding that freedom to a level where Orwell’s vision of the future is becoming a reality.
Big Brother is definitely here. Private information is routinely made public, to an extent that advertisers now have the ability to warp others' perception through search engines, global marketing and laser-guided advertising. How much personal information are we going to allow to be exposed and recorded before we say, enough is enough? This is one case where I wholeheartedly believe the civil libertarians are correct in their assessment of the direction of government eavesdropping, and it needs to be stopped.
How long will it be before a US government department steals information, a process, a patent and releases it to an American company under the guise of "national security"? Come to that, has it actually happened already?
With all of the recent revelations about the NSA, Australian government and multi-national companies listening to everything we do and say, you would think that an Australian ISP or technical company would have thought to offer a solution. They could offer privacy to companies, organizations and small businesses by delivering a secure email system and cloud storage, or a full secure solution including internet connection.
The word “secure” is not referring to the protection that would need to be in place for the data. Information in transit and at rest would have to be protected with encryption, in a point-to-point enclosed environment. But that's not enough. We are talking about no-cosy-up agreements with government departments or technology and marketing companies concerning access to that information. With such an agreement in place, no data could be accessed by investigative authorities and government departments without a signed warrant from a judge or from the individual. No fishing expeditions, only targeted and legal searches.
Would this create a problem for law enforcement? In reality, it would create a huge problem at first. But it would also mean that they would have to use other resources and capabilities to build a case against an individual or business. This in turn would make the investigative process much more secure, robust and succinct. When law enforcement has the ability to capture and filter all information, they have it relatively easy. What's to stop them changing the criteria so that even small and innocuous laws can now be enforced? Making information harder to access would force government and police departments to focus on more serious violations of the law.
We have some brilliant technical companies combined with outstanding technical expertise available in this country. So why doesn't one of them create a secure system of online communication and data storage like the one I'm proposing? One of the problems in Australia is that most companies are followers; they have limited focus on innovation and leading from the front. They should rethink this. An easy-to-use, secure system with all of the facilities and capabilities located in Australia would be a benefit to all Australians.