Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Something to hide

"I think the only people who are worried about things like that are people that [sic] have got something to hide and I've really got nothing to hide."
That was Liberal backbencher, Don Randall, this morning defending the Howard government's Smart card against concerns emerging from the government's own backbench.

Why has the accusation of 'having something to hide' become the new catch-cry of a government seeking to discredit those who oppose its efforts to introduce tools and regulations that impinge on our civil liberties or have the potential to undermine our right to privacy? First, it was used to counter civil liberty advocates' opposition to the anti-terror laws: the government claimed that if you had nothing to hide, you had nothing to fear from the laws.

Now, facing opposition for its push to introduce a Smart Card for all Australians seeking access to public health benefits and other services, they are resorting to the same dirty tactics.

The Howard government is
pushing ahead with its plans, and this morning introduced legislation to Parliament to allow it to bring in the 'Smart Card', which is set to replace the current Medicare card, which allows Australian residents to claim rebates on the cost of their medical treatment under the public health system, and will potentially be used for accessing other federally provided social services such as welfare payments via Centrelink.

Now opposition to the card has also emerging within the government's own ranks, wth some Coalition backbenchers have expressed concerns that the smart Card could potentially be used as a National Identity Card, something they oppose philosophically, and which has already
proven to be unpopular with the Australian public.

While the Howard government may have toyed with the idea of using its Smart card as a de facto identity card – ostensibly as an anti-terrorism tool –
it now claims to have ruled out it being an 'identity card', and the Smart card or 'access card' is touted as a 'one stop' card that they claim will cut down Medicare fraud and other attempts to defraud the Commonwealth (of welfare payments etc). Only, I don't believe them.

Now, the Australian Federal Police have indicated they intend to use the Smart Card as a tool in cracking down on identity fraud.

This is a huge irony, considering one of the biggest concerns raised by IT security professionals and others opposed to the Smart Card is that having one card that accesses a wide range of identifying and personal
information – most likely stored on one database, or a series of linked databases – makes it much easier for those seeking to steal someone's identity to do so, and thus leading to more identity fraud!

It strikes me that there is little to stop the technology of the Smart Card, and the information that it provides access to, from being used by security agencies and the state from tracking and monitoring the activities of those living in this country, and there is very little that reassures me that the information accessed via the card can truly be protected from identity theft and fraudsters. Accept, of course, mass public opposition to the scheme...

But the more vocal we get in opposition to the Smart card, the more we will get tarnished with the 'If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear' taunt. The sub-text, of course, is that only terrorists, those disloyal to the country (or rather the state), or those who have something criminal or illegitimate they wished to conceal would be opposed to either the anti-terror legislation (or the sedition laws, or any host of other efforts by the Howard government to silence dissent), or now the potential for the Smart Card to undermine our right to privacy – as it mines our private information.

A classic move from a government that appears to resent the dissent of the people more than it is concerned with the true threat to our security – infringements on our civil liberties and our right to privacy.

Well, Don Randall, I do have something to hide – the privacy of my personal information, and the security of my identity. More essentially, though, is what I have to protect – my freedom and my rights.

[Image by BlueTigger]

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At February 07, 2007 7:42 pm, Blogger phil said...

Not to mention that this data will be extremely commercially valuable. You will have a choice of being repressed or exploited (actually you won't, they'll be simultaneous).

At February 08, 2007 1:06 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Exploited – more than we already are? Hmm.

'Data miners' will be the new corporate warriors of the new era.

Oh. Hang on. They already are. They're called pollsters and marketing people.

At February 10, 2007 11:53 am, Blogger phil said...

If memory serves me correctly, they're called Crosby textor.

At February 12, 2007 10:19 am, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Aah. If readers wish to Google it (as I had to), try 'Crosby/Textor'. There are also entries on Crosby (Liberal Party campaigner and Howard pollster) and Textor (business partners with similar credentials) on Wikipedia.

My curiosity driven searching for Crosby/Textor also turned up the Centre for Media and Democracy's website, which states:
"The Center for Media and Democracy is a non-profit, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism."

They have stuff on Crosby/Textor too.

Thanks, phil.


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