Monday, July 13, 2009

Must read

Over on Public Address, Emma points to some very good OIA work by Thomas Beagle about the Department of Internal Affairs' plans for internet filtering. The short version: DIA are about to implement an internet filtering system in secret. It will be voluntary for ISPs and aimed only at child pornography - but we know from experiences elsewhere that such schemes never stay that way, and inevitably suffer from mission creep (up to and including covering criticism of the scheme itself). And naturally, they are refusing to release the blacklist, on the basis that it is a shopping list for paedophiles. The fact that it means they never have to admit to, let alone answer for, the inevitable mistakes and abuses of course has nothing to do with it.

(Fortunately, we have an answer to secretive, unaccountable bureaucrats: the Ombudsmen. And if that fails, there's always WikiLeaks...)

I am dubious enough about internet filtering - it is IMHO simply a pointless waste of time (in that such measures can be trivially circumvented), while being ripe for abuse. But the fact that this is being done in secret with no publicity, consultation or debate is beyond the pale. That is not how things are supposed to be done in a democratic society. If the government wants to do this, it should own its policy and say so openly so they can be held democratically accountable for it. Of course, that is the last thing any government wants to do...