Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Followers of IT in Australia may recall in June 2011  it was reported by Crikey.com.au that a staffer at ABC Australia placed some code on an ABC server to mine bitcoins.

Back then, as Fairfax’s Sydney Morning Herald reported at the time, ‘ABC’s head of corporate communications, Sandy Culkoff, said that the ABC would not comment on IT security matters however “there is a serious misconduct case underway in relation to this matter”

During Australian Senate Estimates in February 2012, Senator Abetz asked ABC Australia a number of questions about the incident. This revealed the incident was not a case of someone attempting to use corporate CPU time for their own advantage, but instead use visitors computers without their knowledge.

To answer Delimiter’s question from last year, this would most likely place the actions of the ABC staffer in the class of ‘petty criminal‘ under section 478 of the Australian Cybercrime Act. Today, the answers to the questions from May 2012 have arrived and it once again raises the question whether the ABC’s board are guilty under section 477 of the act – the more serious computer crime.

The ABC will be telling parliament they’ve destroyed logs. The actual quote is “The ABC did not retain the server log files for that period” which leads to wondering how long the ABC maintain their logs and why possible evidence of a ‘serious misconduct case’, or even that of a possible criminal act, has vanished. They will be telling parliament that no record was kept of the offending code “The ABC did not retain the Bitcoin code.” They will also be telling parliament that a conscious decision was made to keep notification of trying to impair computers away from the public: “There was no ABC news coverage of this matter” (this is at direct odds to my recollection of coverage at the time, but I would agree that it would seem there are no references to this incident on the ABC’s own website as of today). The ABC have previously claimed that they “ha(d) not received any complaints from audience members as a result of this Bitcoin code.”  The ABC believes that it’s not for them to tell the public when their staff members attempt to execute unauthorised code on your computer: “The ABC considered that it would be contrary to good security policy to publish any information about breaches of site security as this could reward and encourage hackers.

This is not someone attacking the ABC’s site, this is an ABC staff member attacking external computers. The ABC have decided to show no one – not the public, not AusCERT, certainly not the Federal Police – any details. If you were visiting their website and your web browser did have performance issues at the time, they certainly haven’t put their hand up to say ‘Oh sorry it might’ve been us’. Instead, they’ve hidden, obfuscated and deleted data. To say that such behaviour reminds me of the genesis of reports on the News International phone hacking scandal would be an understatement. Maybe we should expect more of this behaviour from ‘our’ ABC in the future. In the context of the push by the current Australian government’s attempts at data retention, one can’t help but also think that parliament is putting the horse before the cart. It’s time enough for Australia to have mandatory disclosure laws about data breaches. I hope that scenarios such as the ‘ABC Bitcoin Incident’ will be included in the types of data breaches requiring mandatory disclosure.


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To the Editor, Mercury Newspaper, Hobart, Australia.

Whilst I feel for the CEO of Metro Tasmania (Letters, Saturday Jan 7th) about the wishing to protect the Metro service from those inclined to double dip discounts on their Greencard and thus no reasonable notification was provided before the Greencard changes, I cannot for the life of me understand why they didn’t get my email address from their database and mail me on the morning they reprogrammed their system.
Then again, this is a monopoly government subsidised travel company whose website is near in-navigable at the top-level, doesn’t offer reasonable transfer information for interstate visitors (or basic point and click routing of any sort for that matter), appears to fail the most basic Web Accessibility standards and doesn’t let their timetable information to be used in educational institutions to teach programming – and thus maybe overcome their own failings on website and mobile services. For the record, over the past year I made approaches to the Minister responsible for Metro and Education in person, via Twitter and Facebook suggesting a reasonably simple solution to these multiple issues (pro-tip: use the Creative Commons licenses for the data). The silence has been deafening. I can only presume senior management within Metro wish to be picked on.
With this in mind, I’m happier to pay less for this ‘service’ and give good bus drivers the occasional tip for a professional and courteous approach to their job.



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Dear Sir,

I’m curious about the number of violations of Electoral Act Section 191 that may have taken place in the past few weeks. From my own brief observation, that is to say less than 30 seconds, it would seem clear that major Hobart online news outlets and at least one major party candidate have been in breach of the law for the entire campaign for the Tasmanian upper house seat of Elwick. As S191 received a reasonable amount of attention during the State campaign, it would be hard for a major party to argue one isn’t aware of its existence. I further find it hard to imagine that this law is any less relevant during a mere singular upper house election.

If there were as many unauthorised newsprint, roadside and pamphlets carrying unauthorised commentary as there are online unauthorised commentary, I have no doubt there would be demands that intentions should be clarified for when the law would be enforced. One can only have confidence in law enforcement if the law is enforced fair and evenly. It is disturbing trend seeing the Electoral Commission treating the online community as second class citizens with poorly worded, illogical information and little or no feedback.


Peter Lawler.

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Blink and you’d miss it, but unionist Tim Jacobson, Greens advisor Kartika Franks and Mayor Adriana Taylor are currently contesting a Tasmanian upper-house seat. As usual, interesting to note who has and who hasn’t complied with the Tasmanian Electoral Act as well as who doesn’t meet basic accessibility. The ultimate irony being the Commission’s own failure to meet basic accessibility.

For the record, I suspect I’ve written a great number of tweets that may not have been Authorised. Not living in an electorate that’s now at the polls lead to a situation where I was blissfully unaware I may have broken the law. Is this a case for a unicameral system? I have no idea. I do know if the Commissioner wants to stop me, he should already know where I live. He’s got my name and address on his electoral roll.

For the blood and gore, there’s Antony Green‘s blog about the contest for Elwick.

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There are still some tangental frayed story cords that I’d like to tidy up after the election as it looks like this crap sammich will still have legs well in to this year, with all parties promising to make sure the law reform takes place during the life of the next parliament. But for now…

With less than 12 hours to go before opening of polls in the Tasmanian election, candidates are settling in for the wait. New tweeps are coming out of the woodwork and the Facebook pages are having their profile pictures changed despite section S191. A well-known political action group seem unaware of S191’s requirements and a famous national blog got in on the action and hosted an unauthorised live blog. This Possum corrected this so that things could continue. Then there’s the TV stations running apparently unauthorised polls on their websites

With everything I’ve written about S191 and how Tasmania entered the election phase with such a mad law in place, with stuff written by national tech journals, published by the national broadcaster one can really only reach the conclusion that the Electoral Commission has selectively enforced the law, and further have bent at right angles it where it’s faced the smallest of hurdles (eg, websites of newspapers, advice completely at odds for the cited websites of  local TV stations). As I wrote the other day, there’s even a possibility that the Commission completely ignored the law when providing advice to one of the major political parties. The Commission even went as far as releasing the numbers of complaints against the ‘Robocalls‘, yet point-blank refused to release similar numbers for S191.

With all this, one can reach the reasonable following conclusions:

  1. The commission wasn’t sufficiently technically literate when S191.1.b was introduced
  2. Despite point one, the commission wilfully remained technically illiterate
  3. Because of points one and two, the commission utilised the tools of FUD to keep critics in a place where they cannot evaluate S191’s (and thus the Commission’s) enforcement during the election
  4. Possibly due to three, candidates and lobbyists were not ready to spend effort and time in comprehensive modern campaigning techniques as seen executed by the US Democrats in the 2007 Presidential Election (specifically Obama)

Because of point four, I believe that the election, whilst taking place in a fair way, may well be considered not to be free.

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On Tuesday 16th March, the ALP started ‘cold calling’ Tasmanians with a warning about ‘what a vote for the Green party means’. This post is not intended as a critique of the call’s content. This is a critique of the Tasmanian Electoral Commission and their possible failure to police the Electoral Act.

The ALP’s state secretary, Mr John Dowling, has indicated that the company producing the calls is in Sydney. ABC Hobart reported that The Mercury (News Corp’s local rag) identified the name on the voice as a person from the Hobart suburb of Montrose who’d written 5 recent ALP positive letters to the editor. Mr Dowling claimed that the TEC had approved the cold calling.

However, given the company producing the call campaign is (according to Dowling) in Sydney and the voice is of someone is in Montrose, it’d would be reasonable to presume that the internet usage at some stage during production of the calls, either in preparation (eg, voice recording and transmission to Sydney), or the calling itself (eg, utilising VOIP to make the calls in to Tasmania).

With these reasonable presumptions in mind, as well as the TEC’s clear and concise request on the 13th of this month that everyone, including those interstate and overseas, respect Tasmanian law, it’s not unreasonable to ask the TEC the following questions:

Can the TEC confirm that the internet was not used at all in the production or delivery of any of the now infamous ‘ALP cold call’. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • transport of the audio to the company in phone company in Sydney that ALP secretary John Dowling says they used
  • utilising VOIP to call Tasmanians from Sydney (or indeed TCP/IP usage on the backbone switching required to make the calls)
  • transport of the “sound file” (Dowling’s phrase) from the Sydney company back to Dowling as indicated in his ABC Northern Tasmania interview
  • transport of the sound file from Dowling to others, including the media
  • if the TEC cannot confirm that the internet was not used, what steps will the TEC take to make sure trust in the Commission’s oversight of other Internet commentary during the election

Whilst I appreciate that Dowling sought TEC’s approval of the campaign, and that straight up cold calling campaigns do not need authorisation, I cannot see how it’d be possible to do the above in 2010 without using the internet in some way and thus not be subject to S191.

(I’ll return and tidy up this a bit later when I can start linking in source materials, I’ve just banged this out ASAP as a heads up for those interested)

Screenshot of ALP supporter commenting on ALP candidate's Facebook page

ALP supporter denies internet involvedment in cold calls

Update: ALP Candidate’s Authorised FB page carries statement from supporter saying internet was not used anywhere in production or transmission of cold calls. I’m curious what supporting evidence he has, given my queries above.

Update 2: After a brief analysis of an audio sample of the call that fell in to my lap, I’m happy to say a few of things about it.

Infamous Tas Labor Cold Call – How many crickets can you hear?

  1. It’s an accurate reproduction of the voice and words that was broadcast on ABC Radio this afternoon
  2. There is ambient noise
  3. It is unclear during cursory inspection whether the ambient cricket noise was in the pre or post production (that is, recorded at the voice source, by the person recording the call, or added in to the mix at production stage to mask edits). Such an examination is beyond my amateur butt, and should be left to experts (or the TEC).

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Dear Willy,

Hope you don’t mind me calling you Willy. Your family’s been around the traps here in Tasmania for so long, you feel like part of the furniture, an old pair of slippers. Hence, the familiar. If it offends you, I’m sure I could work something out based upon your third name. I digress.

See, thing is… I will always think of your Dad a great sport for the silliness we got up to with Old Nick in 1996’s Uni Revue. And yes, you’ll probably top the Liberal ticket in my electorate. But I really cannot find it in myself to use any of that as an excuse to forgive you for so blatantly breaking WCAG10. Yes, I know we’re already at WCAG20, but can’t we then agree that I’m really asking for not that much at all? It’s just… I’d hate to think you have something personal against disabled people using the internet.

As you, or at least one of your researchers, know by now, if I had my way people not adhering to that fundamental recommendation that many struggled years to create would suffer the same penalty as if they had broken S191. Come to think of it, I’d get them beaten by blunt heavy instruments before being fined then thrown in jail. But that’s just me. I know that there’s the issue of what the Commissioner reportedly told the newspaper and how that’s different to the advice on his own website… but really. Maaaate. C’mon!

As I’ve said at Delimiter, it would seem obvious to me that the legislation is in fact some form of attempt to enforce WCAG10 during the election cycle and for that I do – grudgingly – agree with it. Also, as S191 wasn’t updated to include any of WCAG20, it makes sense to only ask about WCAG10. But to break it so openly? And for Matt Groom to just seemingly ignore both S191 and WCAG10?

As always,

The obvious haemorrhoid on the hole of the arse of the world,


UPDATE [2010:03:03 22:05]: I see Matt finally pulled his finger out. I’m still waiting for Michael Ferguson to do the same, but really after the way he spoke to me in DM I really don’t think I should give him the chance. Just lucky for you it was so rude I deleted it and I’m so nice I’ll let it pass for now. But the nerve of the man! I’m still appalled at your attitude to disabled people online. And I’m getting sick and tired of being some weirdarse proxy point man proxy all the parties and their sock puppets.

Me. Again.

P.S. Is the problem because this Open Letter is online and I’m too lazy/environmentally friendly to kill a tree and some ink to mail it to you? I’ve @’d you on Twitter for this now, I’m really not sure what more I can do! Unless you expect me to go back to 20th century internets… /groan

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