It’s time to get angry about Australian Internet censorship

I received an email from GetUp today stating that “live trials” of Australia’s Internet filtering system are about to begin.

The system filters a secret blacklist of sites from all Australian computers. An earlier leaked version of the list found around 2000 sites, mostly child pornography.

A couple of things are happening here that I would like to draw everyone’s attention to:

  • The list that was leaked will change
  • The list can be used for monitoring, not just blocking
  • We have no idea what will be added or removed from the list, because it’s classified
  • Secret blacklists are used by the CIA in the US to monitor email traffic. Resolving those IP addresses is interesting: ACLU.org, nytimes.com, various Universities. Basically a who’s-who of the recipients of leaked government information.

So I would ask you, who is the government ultimately going to protect with this system: You, or themselves?

From a technical perspective, this system is far more useful for the restriction of politically damaging speech by regular citizens than preventing anyone from accessing child porn, which is typically disseminated on ad-hoc peer-to-peer darknets and never on web sites. These darknets are encrypted, so the best way to bust the ring is – guess what? – traditional law enforcement. Using a system like this to prevent people from accessing illegal porn is like playing whack-a-mole with millions of moles. Ultimately you’ll just beat the forest to a pulp.

In conclusion:

  • This system is not useful for preventing access to porn, and the government knows it. They’re not stupid.
  • The blacklist was leaked early to convince everyone that (a) this is really about porn, and (b) this system isn’t going to work anyway – let’s not worry about it
  • The government has successfully used this cover to put in place a national firewall that can monitor and record every packet going through every major ISP and internet backbone – something you could never make a case for in Parliament. But protecting the kids? That will get passed easily.

We must reject this appalling intrusion against our privacy. Contact your local member of parliament and make your voice heard. GetUp’s campaign is a good place to start.

Conspiracy theory is entirely my own and not associated with GetUp, who are probably a bit more sensible than me.

The Hotel gets 5 Stars in “The List”

I’m celebrating today as one of my shows, “The Hotel“, got 5 stars in The List.

Still waiting for The Scotsman. Fingers crossed…

In the meantime Edinburgh Fringe rolls on, taking my energy, liver and emotional stability with it. It’s a total rollercoaster, but of course I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Good thing it’s only a month.

Synchonising Google contacts with your OS X Address Book without an iPhone

So, I lost my iPhone a while ago and that was annoying.

Then my annoyance doubled when I realised that my Google contacts were no longer being synced to my OS X Address Book. It turns out that Apple will only let you synchonise Google contacts when you have an iPhone connected to the system.

This would have to be the most brain-damaged mis-feature I’ve seen in years. It’s not like my laptop has to access Google through the iPhone. It’s just a completely arbitrary co-dependence of two otherwise utterly unrelated features of the computer.

Luckily there’s a workaround for those who no longer have an iPhone but enjoyed the Google Contact syncing. It’s a short script, so only really useful to those willing to get their hands dirty in the shell.

#!/bin/sh
echo "Syncing Contacts with Google"
/System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/GoogleContactSync.framework/Versions/A/Resources/gconsync --sync com.google.ContactSync
echo "Sync Complete"

There – done! I suppose you could turn it into a launchd script if you’re really keen, but I’m happy to just run it by hand from time-to-time. Eat it, Apple!

Guest Appearance on Byte Into It

Last week on Melbourne’s 3RRR, Georgia Webster, Andrew Fish, Keren Flavell and myself discussed Windows 7, TinyXP, iPhone security, defamation, video games, the seeming success of the Australian ‘net filtering trial and my experiences at the Open Video Conference.

It was a really fun experience and reminded me how much I miss radio. There’s something very liberating about such a simple live medium, and you don’t have to worry about whether you’ve got food on your shirt. Radio is kind of a nerd’s dream, because it’s closer to “pure thought” than all the live visual media.

You can download the MP3 here.