NEWSFLASH! In September I will join The Conversation as its Business and Economy Editor. I have been honoured to work at The Age for the past ten years, originally alongside the legendry Tim Colebatch, and for the past four years as economics editor in my own right.

At The Conversation, my job will be to make the best thinking from Australia's 40 univerisites accessible to the widest possible audience. That means you. From the new year I will also write a weekly column.

On this site are most of the important things I have written for Fairfax and the ABC over the past few decades. I recommend the Search function. The site is a record for you, as well as me.

I'll continue to post great things from The Conversation and other places here, and also on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy.

Monday, July 01, 2013

They want to see your phone and internet records. Here's what they do

Did you know that the Australian government accesses someone's phone or internet records on average once every two minutes, every day,  every hour of the year?

The Global Mail reports:

"It happens all the time – roughly 800 times a day, on last year’s records.

Somewhere in Australia, a government bureaucrat – no-one especially senior; say, a Centrelink agent – fills in a form, gets a signature from someone else in the department, and becomes authorised to check out a member of the public’s phone records (which numbers that person has called, how long they spoke, and where they were when they placed the call), and then their email history (who they’ve emailed, and when, and the IP addresses used).

No warrant required, no notice given. It’s all legal – and has been happening since 2007.

In fact it happened more than 300,000 times in 2011-12. It may have happened to you – and in most cases, you wouldn’t know."

But what does one of the requests look like?

The NewYorker provides a clue.

The US dolcument is so extraordinary that I have published it as a pdf below.

I find it chilling. Especially the bit about the phone company admitting to no-one it has betrayed its customers:

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