back to article Australia wants to jail infosec researchers for pointing out dodgy data

Australia's proposed laws outlawing research into data de-anonymisation look set to proceed after a Senate Committee report landed yesterday complete with just one recommendation: that the bill be passed. The Privacy Amendment (Re-identification Offence) Bill 2016 was proposed after researchers Dr Vanessa Teague, Dr Chris …

  1. eldakka Silver badge
    Holmes

    That's ok, because unless the government have magic powers that can prevent offshore bodies from getting the datasets, just get an offshore research body to do the de-anonymization work for you. Or do it when you are offshore, working for a foreign University for example.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      re: That's ok

      Because you can leave the country?

      I strongly disagree. Stupid laws should be challenged and repealed, running away from them is not an answer.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: re: That's ok

        I think eldakka was implying that publishing research from outside Australia (or just talking about it) would be a way of challenging the law, by exposing an obvious flaw.

    2. Crazy Operations Guy

      Then they might just decide to cut all the link going in and out of the country. Its in my experience that governments, in response to a horse escaping the barn, will tend to just burn the entire farm to the ground and salt the ashes. That or waste billions of dollars on an impenetrable gate that no one wants or needs.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Happy

        re: That or waste billions of dollars on an impenetrable gate that no one wants or needs.

        That's ok, we're going to get the horse to pay for it!

  2. elDog Silver badge

    Fine idea - apply to all other research that doesn't meet the politicians' favor

    Basically, this concept could be applied to any finding that was against the desired outcome.

    So, for example, I (Claudius) could stipulate that naming of my mistresses names is a crime. You, prole, could show that you can determine your mistresses names rather easily by matching their carriages to my home address. I could then punish you for even pointing out that obvious fact.

    Just depends on who is in charge. Not on right/wrong.

    De-identification of data is a bitch of a job. And in the end mainly useless. Good forensics and enough will/horsepower will find the answer. Now that this response has been cataloged by several agencies and pseudo-commercial interests, they have drawn the conclusion "Nothing to worry about with that idiot."

    Don't Speak Badly About My Baby

    1. P. Lee Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Fine idea - apply to all other research that doesn't meet the politicians' favor

      >De-identification of data is a bitch of a job.

      Yep. So don't sell it or release it. Don't use it in anyway without the same controls as the original data.

      Problem solved.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Fine idea - apply to all other research that doesn't meet the politicians' favor

        Or- stop collecting data on world+dog...

        Problem solved.

        1. Crazy Operations Guy

          Re: Fine idea - apply to all other research that doesn't meet the politicians' favor

          To be fair, there is some data that the public should be aware of. Like if a town next to a military base suffers from a higher rate of certain respiratory issues, or if the demographics of people voting in an election doesn't match up with the actual demographics (EG, an entire segment of the population's votes weren't counted).

          Anonymization is hard, which is why need more researches finding potential holes in the process.

          1. Yes Me Silver badge

            Re: Fine idea - apply to all other research that doesn't meet the politicians' favor

            "Anonymization is hard, which is why need more researches finding potential holes in the process."

            Indeed, and there are many fine researchers outside Australia who will be glad to have a bit less competition now. It 's a hilarious example of jobsworths who, only 70 years after the invention of general purpose programmable information processors, and 50 years after the invention of packet switching networks, still don't understand the first thing about them.

  3. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Brandis

    This man is in serious need of an arse kicking.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Brandis

      Even a clue would do

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Brandis

        Combine both good ideas. Introduce him to a clue-by-four.

        We need an icon of "a dob o' wood w' a nail thru' it"

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    We are governed by idiots

    Refer to article for details.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If I was cynical which I am then the only reason I can possibly think this has happened is that if you make the data unidentifiable it loses it's value therefore you can't have people stopping your revenue stream by pointing out the flaws.

    The other option of sheer stupidity is just to stupid to comprehend and my head hurts just trying contemplate the logic process someone has gone through to come to this outcome because surely nobody and I mean absolutely nobody could sit down and say we have a problem which someone has pointed out so we can fix it but what we will do is pass a law so they and anyone else can't tell us about any other problems in the future. Plausible deniability?

  6. Griffo

    It won't pass

    I'd be surprised if this Bill passes the senate. There's no chance Labor or Greens will support it, and I doubt Xenophon will either.

    The committee that Brandis appointed were 3 LNP (Tory) stooges none of whom have a clue about anything made post 1960, pretty much everyone recognises that so they will ignore the recommendation.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: It won't pass

      I wouldn't be so sure about Labor. You really never know which way they're going to go next on IT/data policy.

  7. MrDamage

    Yes, make it illegal

    Because outlawing something has always stopped miscreants from kidnapping, murdering, or otherwise breaking laws.

    Once again, conservative politicians are proving they are a complete waste of a cumshot.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  8. Magani
    FAIL

    Hmmm

    Seems like a new take on 'Shoot The Messenger'.

    If it wasn't so serious. it'd be funny.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      "Seems like a new take on 'Shoot The Messenger'."

      It might have been better if the dissenting report had simply said "don't shoot the messenger". It might be a cliché but clichés are an effective means of getting simple ideas into the heads of simple people.

      There needs to be an induction process for people entering high office. Learning not to shoot the messenger would be one part. A recitation of Ozymandias would be another. The pail of water experiment* would be a third.

      *Dip your hand into a pail of water. Take it out again. Examine the impression you left behind.

      1. Magani
        Happy

        Re: Hmmm

        ...an effective means of getting simple ideas into the heads of simple people.

        Anyone tried this with Senator Brandis?

  9. Marcus Fil

    Yippee

    Those of us living in the UK, USA and Canada can be thankfull that our politicians are not nearly as ignorant, blinkered and self-serving as our antipodean cousins.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Those of us living in the UK, USA and Canada ....

      You missed a <sarcasm> tag there.

      This sounds like a CYA law, possibly preceded in private by an "Oh s**t" moment as someone pointed out to them how p**s poor their anonymization process actually is.

      But I'm with earlier posters. Let me say it loud and clear.

      IT'S NOT THEIR DATA, IT'S YOURS.

      If a government insists you supply this data they should be aware of a)How it can be misused and b)How to store it securely.

      If they can't maybe they should not be collecting it in the first place?

  10. Olius

    Oh what a shame

    I was going to steal a load of this data, de-anonymise it and sell it for ££££££ on the black market to phishers, but I won't now because de-anonymisation is illegal.

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Scary

    After reading this I was going to ask "Is the whole world going mad", but now I'm not sure I want to hear the answer. It's quite astonishing how far Australia has fallen in a comparatively short time span.

    1. ImmortanJoe

      Re: Scary

      I always say this. "The views of our government in no way are representative of the views of the Australian people." Please don't judge us by the behaviour of our government.

      So many utterly embarrassing and / or horrifying pieces of legislature that no sane or moderately intelligent person would support are knocking around in Canberra. If only real life was simple as flatten and reinstall.

  12. DNTP

    Instead of all that fanciful cryptography stuff

    I'm going to sell the Aussies my ULTRACODE system for anonymizing names into accession numbers:

    A=1 B=2 etc

    Its the perfect code since no one will be legally allowed to try and crack it, therefore it is unbreakable.

  13. ShortStuff
    FAIL

    Wow, I guess we Americans don't have the stupidest politicians after all. At least they're running neck and neck. The worst part about it is that these ignoramuses keep getting elected. What does that say for the voters who put these lame-brained numbskulls in office?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "Wow, I guess we Americans don't have the stupidest politicians after all."

      The race to the bottom is one with many winners.

    2. ImmortanJoe

      Because we don't get to hand pick the least incompetent individuals. It's just a choice between a turd sandwich and a giant douche no matter which way we turn.

  14. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Gollocks to Beorge Grandis.

    If he takes offence at that then he too is guilty of de-anonymising data without my permission.

  15. Gigabob

    Security by Obscurity ... has flaws

    Solving the security problem is like boiling the ocean. It is a huge issue - like manufacturing back in the 60's. Demming laid out a series of rules and process improvements focused on getting a handle on these problems and addressing them systematically. The Japanese took up this practice and in a few years defects dropped. They became so rare that each new discovered defect was considered a cherished guide for management priorities.

    Without concerted efforts to test systems and surface defects in our dodgy security systems, we end up with exploitable failures across a broad spectrum - allowing Chinese, Russians and North Koreans waltz in and take truckloads of data whilst our MP's shoot our scouts as they warn us of vulnerabilities. This sound like something Trump would do. We should be paying for these scouts and codifying their observations into specifications on how to build new systems without these flaws.

  16. Colin Tree

    Crazy law

    Brandis is just like Trump.

    Get a crazy idea in his head and make it into law.

    But the underlying reason is fulfilling neoliberal (LNP) policy.

    Here comes the fascist, authoritarian, corporatised state.

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