Aussie Gov Seeks Massive ISP User Spying

SYDNEY—There's copyright protection and then there's clear invasion of privacy.  The latter has Australians and many others around the world in an uproar as the Aussie government has proposed that all its internet providers essentially spy on user for the sake of copyright.

The Register reports that the Australian Attorney General’s Department recently closed request for comments on a draft of "computer network protection" amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act of 1979. Web rights watchdog Electronic Frontiers Australia has already fired back that "the proposed legislation provides a very broad exception to the prohibition on interception of network communications for the purposes of ensuring that a network is 'appropriately used'".

Under the amendments to current Aussie telecom laws, the EFA said, "all network operators in Australia will be able to monitor the substance of communications that pass over their network for compliance with their Acceptable Use Policies—the terms of which could include nearly anything."

It's hardly a surprise the proposed legislation is backed by a man a majority of internet users called the most hated man in AustraliaCommunications Minister Stephen Conroy.  He called it "stunning" and "a classic."  Based on his past comments, he also probably would like to put accused copyright violators in concentration camps without due process of law.

The proposal is said to have resulted from the recent Aussie piracy trail of ISP iiNet, accused in a New South ales Federal Court of violating the intellectual property rights of 34 major music and movie companies because of users' actions.  The ISP has said it cannot track every download over its network and existing law does not even allow them to do so.  Hence, the new proposal.

File-sharing and news site ZeroPaid said Australia is "boldly going where no other country has gone before in terms of mass communication interception".

While piracy and illegal downloads—and uploads—are certainly rampant and a major problem globally, the thought of a major nation and a democratic one at that, seeking to allow such monitoring on a massive scale has every freedom organization calling it pure fascism. Put aside piracy concerns for a moment and imagine American ISPs tracking everything surfers do online, and not just in cases of vital national security.

The legislation is schedule for debate in December in the Australian parliament and it's a sure bet the fireworks are going to start now, and not just in the land Down Under.