Threats to Privacy

Privacy, the first victim of the internet.

Governments all over the world are increasingly snooping on our email and other interactions on the net. I wouldn't put up with these busybodies steaming open envelopes (true paranoids superglue all the seams), so why should I have to accept them reading my email? I started these notes in the late 1990s. Things simply got worse after the Sept 11 attack on the USA.

In Russia the Federal Security Service install their gadgets, and charge ISPs for doing so!

In the UK they have a snooping law, called the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill.

France told ISPs they were responsible for what they host, and as a result the biggest web hosting service closed, leaving 40,000 sites without a host.

The FBI in the USA install an unaccountable system at each ISP to run a sniffer system called DCS1000 (formerly Omnivore, then Carnivore) to intercept email.

An air security system to be considered for testing in the USA will track passenger travel and living arrangements, and provide a threat rating. High risk people will get extra scrutiny. Examples would be one man buying tickets for several other men where they have shared addresses in the past, and where they sit apart in the plane. Travel history would be assessed. It would require sharing of credit card and driving licence databases, and may extend to tracking restaurant habits and phone numbers dialled. It would include passport information, national ID cards and biometric information. Accenture are pushing the package.

Australia may plan chips in passports, carrying biometric identification such as iris images and hand geometry. Queensland is planning a driver licence whose smart card includes a digital photograph. Face recognition devices may also be used in airports (despite SmartGate being a badly flawed, unreliable technology which is nowhere near as reliable as the unwise 98% claims). The USA appears to have already passed legislation demanding biometric identification from visitors by September 2004. Britain is said to be considering passports that include fingerprints and iris identification.

Microsoft Next Generation Secure Computing Base

Originally named Palladium, this is intended to make identification of people and machines a mandatory part of computing. Sufficient reason not to participate, I would think.


Then there is the Echelon network, intercepting who knows what satellite phone and internet communications (but probably not cable communications). The five confirmed sites (according to the European Parliament) are at Geraldton, West Australia; at Waithopi, South Island of New Zealand; Morenstow, U.K.; and Sugar Grove and at Yakima in the USA. The signals are doubtless forwarded to the USA National Security Agency, for both military and commercial analysis. The commercial aspect of any analysis means that all non-USA companies should consider routinely encrypting all their electronic communications.

The Echelon station here is the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Station 30 km from Geraldton at Kojarena, opened in 1993. It is run by the Australian Defence Signals Directorate, employs 100 people, runs 24/7, and is on a 35 ha base, with a 415 ha buffer zone around it. Having a buffer zone and no visitors tends to be a giveaway to the nature of these listening posts.

There are suggestions of other listening posts in Australia at Pine Gap, and at Shoal Bay near Darwin.

Defence studies expert Desmond Ball has produced a book on Echelon, and it was also revealed by New Zealand author Nicky Hager's 1996 book Secret Powers - NZ's Role in the International Spy Network.

An earlier book is Secret Power by New Zealander Nicki Hagar, on the international spy networks UKUSA and Echelon. The book is 301 pages, ISBN 0908802358 and appeared in 1997. Mentions operational details of how the USA (NSA), UK (GCHQ), Canada (CSE), Australia (DSD) and especially New Zealand (GCSB) cooperate to intercept signals.

Another book is Net Spiders - Who's watching you on the net, by Andrew Gauntlett, from Frog Ltd, Berkeley Ca, and Vision Paperbacks London. 1999, 169pp, ISBN 1883319781.


There are a handful of admitted snoop agencies in Australia, employing maybe 2500 people (late 1990s). In 2005, the Australian Government announced a major increase in the number of snoops, maybe an extra 500. The cost of anti-terrorism support is to exceed a billion dollars a year. In 2006, Peter Varghese of the Office of National Assessments claimed increases of 185%, from A$574 million to A$885 million since 2001. On the matter of how cost effective this is, I note that I have never heard of an Australian being killed, in Australia, by a terrorist. I don't say it isn't a risk. I do say many of the likely precautions are not cost effective. The money would be better spent elsewhere, in areas with clear risks and established death rates.


Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, reports to the Attorney General. Set up after the British model around 1949. Domestic intelligence, including phone taps, computer intercepts, bugging (warrant from Attorney General required). Security for national and visiting dignitaries. Under new laws can detain people for 48 hours without police charges. Director General Dennis Richardson (since about 1996), Paul O'Sullivan (2006).

Had 620 staff in 2001, in 2005 has 1000 staff. Expected to increase another 500. Staff increased 170 a year, on target for 1860 by 2010. Budget of A$200 million in 2002 doubled. Trying to monitor an estimated 70-80 Muslim extremists living in Australia. Emphasis shifting from counter espionage to counter terrorist.


Australian Secret Intelligence Service, part of Department of Foreign Affairs. Spying overseas, possibly using diplomatic or business cover. Trade and business edge for government. Acknowledged to exist by Fraser Government in 1977. Prohibited from paramilitary activies involving violence or use of weapons. Allan Taylor (2002) is a former head, David Irwin was head in 2006. Budget has doubled since 2002. Budget is officially around A$100 million, but may have spent A$130 million a year. Staff numbers above 500. Focus on South East Asia.


Defence Intelligence Organisation. Provides intelligence and assessment on stratigic, political, and technical matters especially relating to the Asia Pacific region. Based at Department of Defence, it is a joint military civilian organisation. I get the impression its original core function was to provide Australian defence forces with actionable military intelligence on tactical situations (stuff like the whereabouts of opposition forces in SE Asia theatres where Australian troops are deployed). However it increasingly provides assessments of political situations, perhaps as a result of the number of analysts (over 140) it has (the under-resourced ONA was probably intended to do strategic and political analysis). Head? Maurie McNarn 2006?


Defence Imagery and Geospacial Organisation. Collects and provides intelligence to Australian Deefence Forces and Government. Digital maps of strategic sites. Ian Mckenzie was head in 2006.


Defence Signals Directorate (formerly Defence Signals Branch), part of Department of Defence. Originating in code breakers. Intercepts electronic communications. Acknowledged to exist by Fraser Government in 1977. Head Ron Bonighton (2002). Analysis and risk assessment is by DIO Defence Intelligence Organisation. Seems to be the largest of the agencies, with 1000 staff and a budget around A$400 million. Getting new computer equipment? Head Steve Merchant 2006?


Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Bill Blick (2002) is expected to supervise the work of the agencies. It was Blick who first raised concerns about interception of radio traffic to the Tampa.


Joint Intelligence Organisation, Department of Defence military analysis.


Office of National Assessments, autonomous group reports direct to Prime Minister. Analyses reports from the above departments, and co-ordinates. Trade and business data. Did embarassing children overboard report using newspaper reports as basis for a security assessment. Used to be in a Defence building at Russell Hill, but now shares an ASIO building. Seriously under-resources for actually producing good large scale assessment of political situations. Director general Kim Jones (2002), Peter Varghese (2006).


Many of the above organisations are represented on the Secretaries Committee on National Security, which reports to the National Security Committee of Federeal Cabinet.

Cost of Anti-Terrorism

Counter terrorism via intelligence agencies around A$800 million a year in 2005, and set to increase. Defence are spending around A$100 million a year on dedicated counter terrorism unit. Plus Defence probably spend A$500 million a year on Defence Signals Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation and Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation.

Costs since 2001 attack, projected to 2010 will be A$8.5 billion. Iraq deployment will be A$1.26 billion, Afghanistan A$514 million. Aid to Iraq A$263 million, and to Afghanistan A$246 million.

Location, Location

In the USA, the FCC has mandated that by Oct 1 2001, wireless calls to the 911 emergency number must pinpoint a caller within 125 feet. If a cellular phone is within range of three base stations, you could look at signal strength, direction, and time of arrival of return signals. However phones are not always within range of three stations, and some change their power according to signal strength in. Mostly however, the base station operators don't want to pay for expensive changes. It is likely a GPS chip will instead be embedded within each phone. This leaves open the possibility that all phones will always report the position of the user.

I hope you have enjoyed