A case in the High Court crucial to freedom of speech in Australia will be heard in the next fortnight. Michaela Banerji was sacked for tweeting anonymous criticism of the Immigration Department when she worked there. Was the sacking fair, or does she have a constitutional right to anonymous comment? Two million Australians – and a general right to free speech – await the answer, Kieran Pender writes.
There’s a growing and worrying national trend to curtail people’s free speech. Firms, public service bodies and the like are restricting the freedom to speak out about what concerns you. Organisations are imposing restrictions in the name of their ‘social media policy’ or to ‘protect their brand image’, CLA Director Rajan Venkataraman warns.
Minister Peter Dutton is conducting a sham ‘consultation’ after which he will determine “arrangements that govern the protection and management of identity information”. In other words, a man on record 16 years ago as demanding wholesale sharing of personal information across police, security and all government bodies is about to decide whether we get a national ‘Australia Card’ ID system or similar open-slather access to your private information. CLA’s submission says he’s the wrong man, it’s the wrong department, and any inquiry into personal ID rules should be run with equal numbers of rights, liberties and IT gurus as part of a balanced review panel.
Parts of civil society are actively rebelling against a ‘sham’ public consultation process by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that looks set to lead to a new Australia Card proposal or something very similar. Mr Dutton’s only public consultation meeting before pitching a new public ID and privacy system to COAG will be a 150-minute discussion on 22 October in Melbourne. The agenda is pre-determined for attendees to be spoken at, rather than being listened…and Dutton’s anti-privacy stance is well known from his very first speech to parliament.
Researchers can now send secret audio instructions undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, a New York Times report says (180511). Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, send money electronically or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.
Police in Florida USA have crept in to a funeral home to enlist the help of a corpse they created to unlock the man’s mobile phone. Avoiding the man’s fiancee, who was at the funeral home at the time, they have tried to use the dead man’s fingers to gain access to information. So far, the phone has stayed mute. Meanwhile investigations continue over how fellow police came to shoot the man dead in the first place, over the ‘crime’ of having illegal tinted windows on his car.
DNA testing has reached a level of popularity that ensures that many of us have parts of our genome available online, even if we’ve never spit into a test tube ourselves. And the decisions on who gets access to that data may be in the hands of family members we’ve never spoken to – or didn’t even know existed.
Police have a national photo ID database – and then there’s ASIO – but who else has you under surveillance? Apparently, poker machine sites keep tight track on patrons and their habits.
As technology intrudes increasingly into our lives in future, we need to be wary of allowing mindless surveillance and killing devices to have robotic control over life and death. 23 Feb 2017