Internet Filter: Credit Where it Wasn’t Due.

It wasn’t too long ago when I found myself scouring the University of Canberra and the Australian National University for courses to launch myself into a future career. After deciding on the UC course I had been told that it was certified and would count towards accreditation with no less than 3 professional associations in the fields of ICT and engineering. They were: Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Engineer’s Australia (EA) and the Australian Computer Society. Initially I thought that this would be a great boon for my career, as nothing is more important than who you know right? Turns out that one of these professional bodies that I could have sought membership with has a few wires crossed:

The Australian Computer Society has released a report that flags conditional support to ISP-based internet filtering from a technical standpoint, based on a series of boxes that need to be checked before giving the scheme the green light.

Six experts from the ACS said that filtering of the internet is plausible, but suggested a number of steps, summarised below, that the Federal Government needs to first address.

“Filtering alone is unlikely to adequately address cyber security issues or significantly impact those who deliberately produce, distribute or search for illegal material,” said Australian Computer Society chairman and president Kumar Parakala.

The full report from the ACS is available here. Whilst they do pick up on a couple of points that require much more consideration such as the transparency of process and actual purpose of the filter they casually gloss over the point of network degredation. Out of the 19 pages of the report approximately 3 lines are dedicated to the important subject of sending Australia back about 5 years in terms of broadband speeds:

5.5

In this situation there could be enough performance in the filtering solution to ensure that the filter would not create a bottleneck and significantly affect the performance of the ISP.

5.6

  • not all applications work well with a proxy server and so the performance of the ISP can degrade;

Considering that the best (almost ludicrous) estimates had the filter pegged at slowing Internet speeds by 3% and most realistic estimates are closer to 30% the report gives the impression that the only problems the filter faces are policy based. Whilst the majority of the problems stem from the fact that a mandatory filter is in itself bad policy the apparent endorsement from a technical standpoint of a solution that is verging on moronic makes the ACS look out of touch with the world of ICT. Whilst there does appear to be some good technical people behind the document I can’t in good faith endorse it or the media attention that it has received. In fact all the reports on the article have taken the same approach and only mentioned the policy ideas, furthering my point that the report was a little short sighted. “Conditional” support is not what the voting public will see and it’s not what Conroy will use in his rhetoric on the subject.

With so many unknowns being thrown around at this point in time the ACS would have been far better placed to remain agnostic on the filter and should have taken the stance that the filter in it’s current form can’t be implemented until the specifications and policies surrounding it are finalized. This would have allowed them to make the same points that they have already whilst staying at arms length, saving themselves from embarrassment when the filter finally falls on its face. Right now they make some good points but have lost a lot of credibility with those who it represents.

Times like this it makes me happy that I was a lazy graduate and didn’t sign up with associations like this. Although if I did cancelling my membership might have had a bit more impact than just lamenting it on my blog. Bah, they’ve got enough egg on their face as it is 🙂

4 Comments

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  1. I like your thoughts. Can you send me a link to your other posts?

    Justin Davis
    Disclaimer: Author does not represent the legal position of
    Lightspeed Systems Inc. which solely provides an <a href=”http://www.lightspeedsystems.com” title=”Internet Filter”>internet filter</a> to K-12 schools.

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