Sunday, August 07, 2016
Australians threaten to take leave of their census
The plans to retain name and address are clearly an excess. I gathered and used a lot of survey data in my research career and recording name and addresss is egregiously bad practice. It guarantees inaccurate responding. All that would have been needed for any conceivable research purpose would be to retain the name of the suburb. Seeking any more than that is definitely fishy.
And the claim that the data can't be hacked is laughable. Even highly secured American military sites have been hacked. The very claim that the data cannot be hacked will get all the world's best hackers onto the problem in a race to be first to crack it
Any ANY government data is subject to bureaucratic carelessness. A few years ago in Britain there was a spate of government employees leaving DVDs of sensitive data on trains. We don't hear of that now but only because such reports are probably now hushed up. Public servant attitudes are unlikely to have changed
Next Tuesday is the day Australians must fill in—correctly—their census forms, or face a fine. However, many may be willing to take that risk as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) will rather extraordinarily be storing names and addresses in addition to the usual census results.
Previous census forms have collected this information, but respondents were allowed to opt-in to having personally identifiable information retained. This time, the ABS wants to keep the information on record until 2020. This has provoked both privacy and security concerns. The bureau's former chief statistician Bill McLennan called it “the most significant invasion of privacy ever perpetrated on Australians by the ABS,” and even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak weighed in to say the data retention plans were “unethical.”
Others claim the ABS cannot adequately protect sensitive data. According to reports the ABS has had 14 data breaches since 2013.
The bureau says none of the breaches were related to census information, but the Australian Privacy Foundation said it still highlights how difficult it is to secure vast amounts of personal information once collected. Others pointed out that in the past names and addresses were not retained, making the census data a less attractive target for hackers.
Australian Minister for Small Business Michael McCormack told reporters on Wednesday that there has “never been a breach of the actual census data, [and] the ABS assures us that this won’t happen into the future. They have assured me as the minister responsible, they’ve assured the government, that they have every protocol in place, every process in place to ensure that there isn’t a breach this time.”
Not everyone is convinced. Software consultancy ThoughtWorks published an opinion saying that although the census is good for evidence-driven policy, the 2016 census threatens confidence.
“It is our belief that claims that the risk of data leaks are low may not be correct. In light of the security threats observed in recent years, we are afraid that no matter how strong the security capability of the ABS, the risk is real and should this data leak, the impact would be immense. As one example, consider the impact on an individual should their information end up with a fraudster or violent ex-partner,” said the company while advocating data minimisation.
“Not only is securing data difficult, when it is leaked it is impossible to retrieve. Consider that the NSA, one of the world’s most well-funded and capable security organisations, was unable to prevent the leaking of thousands of documents about its operations. It is only by reducing the amount of data that we hold that we can reduce the impact when it leaks,” said the ThoughtWorks statement.
IBM security architect Philip Nye tweeted that the census was almost certain to be hacked. He later deleted his comment—IBM has Australia's census security contract—but not before media grabbed a screenshot.
Meanwhile, data scientists are concerned data integrity will be harmed as many people may refuse to complete the census or deliberately provide false information as an act of civil disobedience, even though it is illegal to do so. “Even on a relatively small scale, acts of civil disobedience with regard to the census could seriously skew the data,” warned privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia.
The ABS will certainly try to force compliance—fines range from AUS$1800 (~£1,000 or ~$1,370) for providing false information to AUS$180 per day for failing to submit the form. But the agency will have no real way to verify the answers provided by those who do complete the form as accurate. Failure to vote in the Federal Election last month resulted in only a AUS$20 fine.
Electronic Frontiers Australia has set up a website, CensusFail.com, to give advice to Australians concerned that their personally identifying information will be linked to other sensitive information such as religion, income, etc., in the census form.
The ABS says it will store names and addresses separately from other census responses, with names replaced by “anonymous linkage keys." However it is not clear how these will be generated. According to Electronic Frontiers Australia, the keys are likely to be a “14 character alphanumeric string made from components of your first and last names, birthdate, and sex.”
“Please note the authors of this site do not advocate that any person provide false or misleading information on their census form,” continues the organisation before proposing “hypothetical” scenarios: “Without falsifying data, if you were to accidentally enter your first name where it asks for a surname (and vice versa) you can see this would have a significant effect on the identifier created. Similarly, Wliliam Smiht, who suffers from some mild dyslexia, or Jaane Thhompson, who has an annoying, sticky keyboard may also find their data is matched to a smaller number of external datasets.”
Around 66 percent of Australians will answer the census online—provided they have Windows XP (Service Pack 3), Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion or later, Android 4.2 or later, or iOS 7.0 or later. However this will allow the bureau to store even more information as it retains IP addresses, and requires all questions apart from religion to be answered: blank fields are not an option.
The ABS says that filing in the form online “helps improve your security.” According to the law, the bureau is obligated to comply with both the Census and Statistics Act 1905 and the Privacy Act 1988, which mention the words “Web," "Internet," and "online” exactly zero times.
Nonetheless, Australia’s chief statistician and head of the ABS, David W. Kalisch, believes that Australians will “willingly and even eagerly” complete their census forms.
“The Census guides Government funding for essential services and infrastructure and is crucial in setting electoral boundaries, allocating Australian government funding to states and territories, planning educational and health services, and other infrastructure for local communities,” he wrote on July 22.
“I urge everyone in Australia to join me and share in the excitement of this once-in-a-five-year opportunity. Australians have no cause for concern about any aspect of this Census, and can have ongoing trust and confidence in the ABS,” he continued before addressing the elephant in the room.
“In 2016, I’ve decided to keep names and addresses for longer. This is for statistical purposes only, and will increase the value of census data. This will enable the ABS to produce statistics on important economic and social areas such as educational outcomes, and measuring outcomes for migrants. My decision followed community consultation, direct engagement with the Australian Information Commissioner and each State and Territory Privacy Commissioner, and a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA),” said Kalisch.
“Key measures to safeguard information include strong encryption of data, restricted access on a need-to-know basis and monitoring of all staff, including regular audits,” explains the ABS website.
“No one working with census data will be able to view your personal information (name or address) at the same time as your other census responses (such as age, sex, occupation, level of education or income). Stored separately and securely, individuals' names will also be substituted with a linkage key, a computer generated code, completely anonymising the personal information. The security measures in place have been independently tested and reviewed to ensure that your personal information is secure. The connection from the user’s computer to the online form is protected using, at a minimum, 128-bit TLS encryption,” says the ABS.
Ars has asked IBM for more information about security measures, but had not received a response at time of publishing.
New movie about the Cronulla disturbances
The Left cannot let the 2005 Cronulla events go. It's one of the few hooks on which they can hang a claim that Australian are racist. What actually happened was a reaction to very offensive behaviour on Cronulla beach by young Lebanese Muslim men. Women were being harassed and the Lebanese were in effect claiming the beach as their territory. Had the police done their job nothing would have happened but for them to do anything might have been seen as "racist" so they did nothing.
So when the men of the Shire saw the offensive behaviour going unchecked, a few of them reacted with a deliberate attempt to chase away the Muslims. And that is the whole of it
IT’S one of the most confronting few minutes of a film you’re likely to see this year, showing Australia on one of its darkest days.
But, initially at least, it looks like the Australia of so many tourism commercials. Sun glistens down on a blue ocean in December. A chap dressed as Santa strolls along the sand as smiling swimmers bob up and down in the warm water. The tune of ‘we wish you a merry Christmas’ can be heard.
But something’s just not right. In footage, all taken from real news reports, there’s way too much booze. Police are on horseback. A helicopter buzzes overhead.
Two men, friends perhaps, shake hands and smile for a camera. All looks well. And then, out of nowhere, one of the two — the one who isn’t white — is attacked.
“That was the moment it stopped being the happy gathering and it just took that one aggressive action,” Abe Forsythe, the director of Down Under, which opens next week, tells news.com.au.
From there, it goes downhill fast. Car windows are smashed and police struggle to hold the crowd at bay. One man’s T-shirt reads ‘ethnic cleansing unit’; a tattoo across a chest says “We grew here, you flew here” while the crowd chants “f**k off wog, f**k off Leb”.
The film is sent in the immediate aftermath of the 2005 Cronulla race riots when Sydney was on tenterhooks waiting to see what would happen next.
“It’s incredible when you look through the footage. At the beginning of the day it was meant to be a peaceful protest and, as it built up, the mood changed.
“This act of solidarity, of an Anglo and Middle Eastern person, who were trying to help stop it spilling over, and all it took was one push for them to just flick a switch.”
And yet maybe the most surprising thing about the film, which follows two car loads of hotheads from each side of the divide, is it’s a comedy.
Mr Forsythe said it was a deliberate strategy. “We’re using comedy to shine a light on this issue in a way you probably wouldn’t if it was a straight drama because by making people laugh it makes it more accessible.”
But the opening scenes play an important role in providing the far from amusing context. “I felt people would go in knowing it was a comedy but I wanted to make clear upfront that even though it is, the subject isn’t taken lightly.”
Mr Forsythe says his film “doesn’t point fingers” at either side but rather, “it tries to encapsulate this mess and how, all of a sudden, things tip over.”
He started writing Down Under six years ago and say he did so because Australia wasn’t talking about what Cronulla meant.
“This is our way as nation, to pretend it didn’t happen, say ‘let’s not talk about it’ and hope it goes away.”
Last December, Australia did start talking about Cronulla again, on the 10th anniversary of the riots. Fears of a full scale riot didn’t eventuate but anti-fascist and anti-immigration protesters did come face-to-face on the beach once again.
While the film was ready to go, the makers decided not to release it last year for fear of being seen to cash-in on the anniversary or even provoke trouble.
Nonetheless, Mr Forsythe says the timing of the film’s release now has unintentionally coincided with the revival of Pauline Hanson’s career.
“I’d like to say its unsurprising but it’s not, it’s a repeat of the same problem we had before, that parts of society feel like they are not being heard and when you have someone like Pauline Hanson back into power they feel they have a voice.”
Nonetheless, Down Under runs the risk of poking the bear by getting a release in Cronulla itself, as well as a number of screens in western Sydney. Mr Forsythe said he was confident the comedy would bring people together.
“So much of what happened before was because we weren’t talking and even with Pauline in power, whether we like it or not, we have to listen to her and hopefully there is some way of finding common ground and moving forward,” Mr Forsythe said.
Bill Leak cartoon: what are you tweeting about?
Bill Leak was indeed writing of the real world in his cartoon. That Aboriginals are sometimes very neglectful of their children is a fact. Something I have heard from a few people who worked with Aborigines (not social workers) was that if Aboriginal families went on walkabout they would sometimes "lose" a child on the way. The family might have (say) six children and, after a stop, they would go on with only five, making no attempt to shepherd all six. It took whites to reunite the "forgoten" child with its family. It would take an anthropologist to work out why that happens but it does
The Guardian Australia’s media correspondent Amanda Meade sent me an email yesterday morning, telling me the cartoon I had drawn for the same day’s paper was being slammed on Twitter and, incredibly, asking me to explain what I was “trying to say”.
While I can accept that a firestorm on Twitter might be of some interest to The Guardian’s media correspondent, what I can’t understand is that someone in her position would need to have the meaning of a cartoon spelled out for her when it was so glaringly obvious.
And it wasn’t only Meade and god knows how many sanctimonious Tweety Birds that couldn’t work out the meaning of my cartoon without external assistance.
By lunchtime, a quick Google search showed people working at any number of media organisations all over the country were struggling to understand it too.
When little children can’t understand things, they often lash out and throw tantrums.
Workplace and safety considerations prevent adults stamping their feet and hurling themselves onto the playground, so they have to content themselves with spewing invective all over the virtual playground of Twitter.
They take aim at whoever confounded them, claim to be offended and engage in a cathartic process of name-calling and abuse.
This therapeutic process is effective, but flawed. By enabling tantrum-throwers to re-establish their feelings of moral superiority they can walk away purged, but it doesn’t get to the root of their problem: Chronic Truth Aversion Disorder.
The CTAD epidemic that is raging unchecked through Australia’s social media population is rendering impossible any intelligent debate on serious social issues, such as the rampant violence, abuse and neglect of children in remote indigenous communities.
The reactions of people in an advanced stage of the condition to anything that so much as hints at the truth, while utterly irrational, are also so hostile that anyone inclined to speak the truth understandably becomes afraid to do so.
The cartoon I drew for yesterday’s paper was inspired by indigenous men and people who, without regard for their personal safety, feel compelled to tell the truth whether it incites the CTAD sufferers to attack them en masse or not.
It’s their prescriptions for improving the lives of Aboriginal Australians that inform my own understanding of the subject.
Before the howls of outrage and accusations of racism that were directed at me started filtering through into my Twitter-free world yesterday, I received an email from Anthony Dillon — whose father Colin was Australia’s first Aboriginal policeman and whose evidence was pivotal to the Fitzgerald inquiry into police corruption in Queensland — congratulating me on the cartoon.
In it, Dillon included a message he’d written to his father, in which he said: “Have a look at Bill’s latest cartoon. “Half of me was crying and the other half was laughing. He has an incredible talent that enables him to blend humour and tragedy without losing the seriousness of the situation.”
So, Amanda, in answer to your question, I was trying to say that if you think things are pretty crook for the children locked up in the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, you should have a look at the homes they came from.
Then you might understand why so many of them finished up there.
QLD police threatening to charge parents for letting kids walk to school
This is ridiculous. When I was a kid I always walked to school by myself. Most of us did. It would not be wise in a large city these days but is still reasonable in a small country town where everybody knows everybody
DO your kids walk or ride to school by themselves? If so, you’re breaking the law, as one Queensland parent recently found out the hard way.
A parent in the small rural Queensland town of Miles, which is near Chinchilla, has recently been charged by police for breaching the criminal code in relation to child supervision.
Other parents have reacted strongly after a police notice about the crime, and the charge, was included in a newsletter at a rural Queensland school.
The notice from Miles police said that in the first few weeks of the school term, they had noticed a number of children under 12 walking or riding to school without ‘proper’ supervision.
It then goes on to quote section 364A of the Queensland Criminal Code, which says: “A person who, having the lawful care or charge of a child under 12 years, leaves the child for an unreasonable time without making reasonable provision for the supervision and care of the child during that time commits a misdemeanour. Maximum Penalty — 3 years imprisonment.”
The notice said police had laid criminal charges against a local parent and warned that others could face prosecution. “We are determined to provide the safest possible environment for our kids and our community and we ask everyone to play their part,” the notice said.
A Facebook post on the issue from a shocked Miles mum has been shared almost 1000 times.
Among the comments on the post is speculation about a possible specific reason for the police action.
Responding to a tweet from The Today Show, which aired a segment on the issue this morning, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said there was “more to this story”.
He defended the officer who placed the notice, saying they were trying to “be proactive & keep kids safe”.
SENATE COUNT FINALISED
More than a month after the Double Dissolution Election, the Senate Count has been finalised. For the growing number of Australians worried about the harm being done to our economy and our future by the Global Warming Cult, the result has been worth the wait.
On the Senate cross-benches there are now seven Senators who simply will not accept the official line that our liberties and our economic future should be seriously constrained for the sake of meeting arbitrary emissions reduction targets. There are seven senators who will not be bullied by the Global Warming Cult. As time goes on, more and more Australians will acknowledge these Senators as “The Magnificent Seven”.
I’ll mention firstly the re-elected senators.
Senator Bob Day AO of Family First has been re-elected in South Australia. On 30 November 2015 Senator Day told the Senate: “As for calling CO2 pollution, that is the most ludicrous, unscientific statement one could possibly make.”
Senator Jacqui Lambie is back in Tasmania for the Jacqui Lambie Network. Here is an extract from her speech to the Senate on 17 March 2016: “It is clear that a government making Australian pensioners, businesses and families pay more for their energy will never stop world climate change. It will only increase the cost of living for our families and kill off Australian jobs and businesses, and for no return.”
New South Wales has re-elected the veterinarian Senator David Leyonhjelm. In his Maiden Speech on 9 July 2014, Senator Leyonhjelm said: “Environmental fanatics are not omniscient geniuses: they do not know enough to tell other people how to live their lives any more than I do.”
In the biggest and most welcome surprise of the election, to those three stalwart senators have been added four new Senators, all representing Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. Senator-elect Pauline Hanson will be supported by her fellow Queenslander Malcolm Roberts, Senator-elect Brian Burston of NSW and Senator-elect Rod Culleton of Western Australia. Pauline Hanson’s One Nation missed getting a fifth Senate place in Tasmania, by only 141 votes.
Unlike the leaders of larger political parties, Pauline Hanson respects scientists and upholds science, as evidenced by her inspired choice of Malcolm Roberts as her running mate in Queensland. Malcolm Roberts as the leader of the Galileo Movement made a great contribution to the defeat of the Carbon Tax.
Yesterday at his Press conference with Party spokesman James Ashby, Malcolm Roberts wasted no time in stating that there is not one piece of empirical evidence anywhere to support the theory of man-made climate change. Malcolm Roberts is in no doubt that the United Nations is attempting to impose global government through climate policy.
The Turnbull Government cannot afford to ignore Pauline Hanson and the other Senators who comprise the Magnificent Seven. Australian politics has been dramatically changed, and changed for the better.