Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The Real Threat

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  • The Ruminator,

    I find this all horrifyingly fascinating. After 9/11 we were all prepared to give up some privacy for the feeling of safety, but now it seems we've had enough. It started piecemeal with the airport scanners, but that's given way to this utter shitstorm about our own online privacy. And now we're getting super defensive of our journalists - which I think is great.

    For so long, journalists have been scorned by the public but now we want them protected and looked after. Fascinating stuff. Also, because you host this blog, and we all comment on it, do you think we're in the tree too? Because that tree is going to be getting Tane Mahuta sized pretty quickly...

    Since Apr 2013 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Gordon Campbell offers some broader cultural context in his post on the topic.

    The hostility to investigative journalism is an outcome of the ongoing politicisation of the public service. When parliamentary and departmental staff are driven by the imperative to Protect The Minister From Embarrassment – to the point where their jobs depend on it – it is hardly surprising that good journalists get treated as the enemy, and the Official Information Act gets treated as an offensive weapon from which the Minister must be shielded at all costs. Thwarting journalistic inquiry is seen as business as usual.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to The Ruminator,

    Also, because you host this blog, and we all comment on it, do you think we're in the tree too?

    I can tell you you're being harvested daily by a state agency.

    On the upside, that agency is the National Library. So that's cool.

    But the rise of what Kim Dotcom calls "Prism Google" -- the rise of the database search where you type one piece of information and get everything on your person of interest -- is alarming. Nothing can be regarded as secure any more.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Idiot/Savant draws that link with the new spying law's deliberate silence on metadata.

    But NZDF weren't spying on Stephenson's communications, they were spying on his metadata. While there's no statutory authorisation for that, there's also no statutory prohibition either - something the Police at least seem to have regard as carte blanche, and which the GCSB's stooge Inspector-General regards as "arguably" legal.
    ...

    All of which highlights the crucial role of metadata, and the problems which leaving it out of the law create. Parliament desperately needs to fix this. Failing to do so leaves the door open for domestic military spying - an anathema in a democracy.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R,

    Which is why my sign on Saturday said "METADATA MATTERS - Peter Dunne should know"

    My beloved told me I was being too intellectual...

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen R,

    My beloved told me I was being too intellectual…

    You probably were. But ... bless.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Martin,

    Because that tree is going to be getting Tane Mahuta sized pretty quickly..

    Our very close friends, who no doubt help when asked, have a garden big enough.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 187 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I don't know the answer to this question myself but ...

    How much difference is there between the NZDF spying on Jon Stephenson and a journalist with a telephoto lens spying on a B-list celebrity?

    I think because of the value of Stephenson's work in revealing practices most kiwis would be ashamed of in the NZDF, we want to see his work continue. The suspicion is that those spying on him will use that information to prevent him from being the watchdog we clearly need. So we view that spying as bad.

    But in an age when "the media" engages in what most folks would describe as spying for the purpose of making more money I find it hard to figure out what defines unacceptable spying from acceptable. To me it all seems unacceptable.

    It gets even murkier when you could easily imagine a good investigative journalist using analytical methods that are not really any different from the spying being done by the NZDF.

    I have to say I am just not sure I can see the objective measure that defines any version of spying as appropriate. To me it seems like "good spying" is defined by the outcome. That doesn't make me comfortable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • slarty, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You may have noticed some circumspection of communication from, well, perhaps even contributors to this magnificent endeavour.

    I had an epiphany when chatting to a colleague last week. We were discussing Sir Paul Condon talking about institutionalised racism in the London Met.

    The people who work in these services are genuinely going about their day to day jobs in the belief they are making our world safer (except for a few arseholes of course).

    The problem is more a hangover from those halcyon days of the cold war, and NZ's depressing and ongoing inferiority complex.

    These drive a systemic desire to bounce around like eager puppies whenever the big boys pay us an iota of attention (what some amateurs call 'realism'). The mis-fire is when this pathetic but understandable trait is cynically co-opted.

    And I think over time that delivers an institutionalised bias...

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    I vacillate between thinking that the NZDF's policy was inevitable and that it is bloody outrageous. "Both" said Pooh, sagely. If the law is murky and immoral behaviour saves your ass then those with positions to lose often find easy "justification" for immorality. We need to ensure that immoral choices are clearly illegal, and the GCSB bill is heading in exactly the wrong direction on that account. Very scary stuff, with huge consequences for NZ.

    It can happen here.

    How do we break through the profound apathy of the "If you have done no wrong then you have nothing to hide, Jack" brigade?

    An interesting piece from John Naughton at the Guardian, suggesting consequences for the internet-as-we-know-it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/jul/28/edward-snowden-death-of-internet

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    So the obvious answer to GCSB snarfing all our packets is crypto everywhere - or HTTPS everywhere - Russell can we all chip in and buy Public Address a key?

    Someone also suggested on Saturday at Parliament that we should commit a DOS upon the GCSB through the FOIA - keep them busy so they're too busy to spy on us - I for one am dieing to know just how many sheets of toilet paper they have used this month

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2605 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Yeah love the fight back talk Paul. Could we flood the GCSB with a withering array of minutia , recipes , what toothpaste we used this morning, how the asparagus is doing, what the cat bought in and yes how many sheets of dunny paper used per day.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    How much difference is there between the NZDF spying on Jon Stephenson and a journalist with a telephoto lens spying on a B-list celebrity?

    Most papparazi don't get to steal your telephone metadata, and can't call up a drone strike on you if you offend them.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston, in reply to Idiot Savant,

    +1 Idiot Savant -
    Its the power and intention behind the "spying" that's the concern

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    Someone also suggested on Saturday at Parliament that we should commit a DOS upon the GCSB through the FOIA - keep them busy so they're too busy to spy on us - I for one am dieing to know just how many sheets of toilet paper they have used this month

    Not a good idea. Quite apart from bringing the OIA into disrepute, the people handling the requests aren't going to be the people doing the spying. Better to focus your efforts on serious questions which will promote accountability.

    (or on things which will simply embarass them, cause the public to hate them and view their activities as wasteful, and so enable budget cuts. So, ask about travel, expense accounts, cellphone bills, high salaries - nothing remotely classified, so they can't hide behind "national security", but which will make them look bad. If you need pointers, look at Rodney Hide's perkbusting days)

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Love,

    How much difference is there between the NZDF spying on Jon Stephenson and a journalist with a telephoto lens spying on a B-list celebrity?

    A journalist with a telephoto lens is not an arm of the state.

    And of lesser importance, a B-list Celebrity! Naked! Sunbathing!, is not a journalist (Jon Stephenson) attempting to question the state's account of its actions.

    Since Jun 2009 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    I will be interesting to see how the internet community kicks back.
    This site Me and my shadow is an attempt to educate people on what data can be gather , where and by whom. It leads to a whole bunch of tools that promise to help you track your digital visibility .

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Graham, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    So the obvious answer to GCSB snarfing all our packets is crypto everywhere - or HTTPS everywhere - Russell can we all chip in and buy Public Address a key?

    Oddly, when I connect to https://publicaddress.net it tries to use a certificate for www.simpsongrierson.com and then redirects to http://publicaddress.net.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2011 • 39 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    BTW, anyone wanting to OIA the GCSB can do so using FYI here.

    (Not driven at all by a desire to see it make 1000 requests this week)

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Kirk Alexander, in reply to Peter Graham,

    That is probably the harder part for Russell to change - SSL certificates can be fairly cheap but for the https site to work reliably in older browsers the publicaddress site would also have to move to its own IP address (and stop sharing with Simpson Grierson). Still wouldn't help with the meta-data much either!

    Chch • Since May 2013 • 17 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Could we flood the GCSB with a withering array of minutia , recipes , what toothpaste we used this morning, how the asparagus is doing, what the cat bought in and yes how many sheets of dunny paper used per day.

    There was a chap in the US who did this very thing. He was being watched by the authorities, but he didn't think it was justified, so he published ALL details of his existence online. Can't find it now.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Its the power and intention behind the “spying” that’s the concern

    I agree but that is the key difference. There doesn't appear to be an objective measure that defines one spying as innocuous tattle and another as a threat to personal freedom.

    Instead it's the intent that makes the difference.

    And BTW NZDF can't call in a drone strike.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to The Ruminator,

    trees company...

    ...that tree is going to be getting Tane Mahuta sized pretty quickly...

    ...and thus, quietly that fine July day, the seeds of what is now The Arbour Party were broadcast.
    Rooting well, and deep, in adverse conditions, the global-reign forest grew unnoticed for the trees, until their branches were everywhere, divergent, expansive, creating a canopy for all life to co-exist within...

    </man can dream, can't he?>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7886 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Sacha,

    and which the GCSB’s stooge Inspector-General regards as “arguably” legal

    This is an important point. For an agency whose oversight is secret, how can a counter-argument be made? In this case an Inspector-General has a duty to ensure that all actions are scrupulously legal. We should all have a pony too btw.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Instead it’s the intent that makes the difference.

    And power. There is literally no comparison to be made between a Nation State and tabloid newspaper.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 154 posts Report Reply

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