You may have seen the reluctant announcement in the media today or yesterday about the Liberal party, Labor party, and National party all having their databases compromised by some sort of hack.
Details at the moment are very thin on the ground. Those tasked with giving the bad news to the public are trying hard to divert your attention to the wonderful lengths they’re going to to fix the problem and catch this bad person or country that has done such a ghastly deed, as if attempting to access private information from foreign countries wasn’t something our own nation does every damn day.
But all that aside, here’s what I’m not seeing discussed which is of greatest concern.
The databases of the Liberal, Labor, and National parties are essentially giant honey pots of information that are very desirable for any state actor because of what Australian privacy laws allow these parties to collect.
Your private data is, well, private. So Australia has robust laws that allow you to contact any private company you’ve had dealings with, request a copy of any information they have about you, and also demand it be deleted in most cases if you choose. But for some very strange reason, politicians tasked with implementing these laws decided that political parties should be completely exempt from such regulations.
It’s insanity. The very people we trust the least, have the most power to collect masses of information about anyone and everyone, and they do.
Now if you have never worked closely with a major party, this next bit might sound like flat earth conspiracy nonsense, but I assure you my sources are very trustworthy. Large political parties employ people (or get volunteers) to specifically collect every snippet of information that appears about different individuals in the media and elsewhere, and gather that info together. Before we were so immersed in the digital age this involved cutting out articles from newspapers. Today, as much information as possible is collected digitally.
You have no legal right to demand the Liberal or Labor party hand over the information they have gathered about you. Nor do you have any right to demand they delete the information.
There’s absolutely no need for every party to have this amount of data on everyone they want.
The only thing needed for a fair political process is if each party plays on an even playing field. If they ALL were required to delete their databases then all is fair.
But the arms race of collecting data that these short sighted parties have undertaken has lead them to make absolutely moronic decisions with regards to anything and everything technical.
Because almost all of our State and Federal politicians themselves couldn’t tell the difference between a hard drive and a hard hat, they are relying on advisors which they have absolutely no way of knowing if they posses the skills needed to keep our data safe or not. And we now know they do not know what they’re doing.
And their track record is appalling.
Let’s rattle off a few doozies.
The Federal Govt purchased crappy worn out copper from Telstra to use in the NBN, then had to replace most of it when they went and tried to use it, because it was so past its use by date.
They tried to get all 25 million people in Australia to do a census electronically at once, then when everything crashed we were told to swallow the lie that there was a DDOS attack. (There wasn’t.) Most people couldn’t do the census the night they were meant to. Meaning for the next 4 years the census data every govt department relies on is extremely dubious at best.
They invested in a random crypto currency called Power Ledger that no-one really knows what it does, or can explain how it works or why it’s needed, but were so bedazzled by the word “blockchain” that it meant tax payer money had to be spent. (I am a blockchain and cryptocurrency educator and even I can’t explain to you why anyone would pay money for the Power Ledger digital token.)
They passed legislation that literally mandates that electronics manufacturers and software developers HAVE to build unsafe backdoors into their software and hardware or risk the threat of going to jail. They are somehow under the notion that these backdoors will be allow police and politicians to easily access all of our communications but can magically posses the ability to completely prevent hackers from doing the same. (Spoiler: no, the backdoors always get found by nefarious hackers too.) (Sidenote, I don’t want potentially corrupt or compromised Police or other “authorities” spying on my communications without a warrant and probable cause either. But that’s for another day.)
These technically illiterate politicians are so clueless about how encryption works, how databases work, how networking technologies work, and how honeypots attract hackers, that it blows the mind.
We have CLEAR EVIDENCE in the most recent USA Presidential election that foreign (to the US) parties purchased advertising and created countless social media accounts in an effort to influence the outcome of the election and sow discord within the nation.
And yet Andrew Hastie, our Federal member for Canning, refuses to answer any questions on such an eventuality occurring in an Australian election, and David Templeman, the WA MLA for Mandurah, keeps tweeting about implementing electronic voting of all things. I’m not sure he actually knows how to use Twitter to be honest.
These politicians cannot keep the secret data they have on all of us safe, cannot get everyone decent internet speeds, and haven’t got the foggiest idea about suitable legislative responses to overseas election influences via social media. If we think these same people will be able to create a perfectly unhackable way to do electronic voting, we’ve got rocks in our heads.
Contact your local politician today and demand they hand over every bit of data they have about you, demand they delete it as soon as they have, and demand they change the legislation so we can be protected from incompetent (or worse) politicians who think God endowed them with special rights that the rest of the population doesn’t posses. Political parties should NOT be exempt from privacy laws, and should not be allowed to collect data on us unchecked. Especially when their ENTIRE DATABASES may well end up in the hands of the Chinese government.