CCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to A Current Affair about his concerns if parents use phone monitoring app Teensafe, a tool marketed at parents to monitor and track the phone activity of their kids. The app allows parents to view their children's texts, calls, GPS location, web browsing, messaging through other apps, Instagram and Facebook activity.
"It's absurd that children aged 16 can consent to sex, but this product can be used to spy on their private lives," Stephen told ACA.
He also warned that there is a danger the account information could fall into the wrong hands, and that adults could be breaking the law if the app is used to spy on people over the age of 18.
The implications for the privacy of children is also critical. "All parents have got a responsibility for keeping their children safe, of course," Stephen said, "But that's not to say that parents should be allowed to deprive their children of necessary privacy."
Source: A Current Affair, 14/04/2015
CCL Executive Member Hannah Ryan has written a powerful opinion piece for New Matilda, arguing that Labor has been 'bought out' on data retention and has not lived up to its responsibility as a robust Opposition. The small amount of protection for journalists offers little consolation and leaves "the rotten core of the bill entirely unassailed". She writes:
"But if one imagines a responsible opposition party, genuinely interested in making good law and sticking up for journalists, one would think that party might have allowed news organisations to put their case on data retention to Parliament, as they were due to do before Labor agreed on the amendments and cancelled the hearing...
But the focus on its own interests is both predictable and irresponsible. The question of the design of the warrant scheme for access to journalists’ data has obscured the stark fact that we are a hair’s breadth away from legislating the loss of privacy for all Australians...
The weakness of the protection given to journalists should be of concern to anyone interested in the practice of investigative journalism, and ultimately in democracy, but it is most remarkable for the fact that it was the sorry bartering chip which Labor accepted in exchange for the transformation of this country into one where we are all suspects."
Source: New Matilda, 24/03/2015
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned consumers about the potential for misuse of their data in shopping centres' new strategy of tracking shoppers' habits over centre-provided Wi-Fi.
A basic connection to free Wi-Fi made available in Westfield centres will allow them to track information about the phone user, and send marketing material directly to the phone based on this data.
Stephen Blanks prompts consumers to question: "How is my information going to be used? Is it going to be compiled for a long-term tracking history? Is it going to be saleable information? Is the shopping centre going to make money [from it]?"
Source: 9 News, 23/03/2015
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks was quoted in The Saturday Paper on Labor's position on data retention and other national security issues, particularly their continued alignment with the Government on all aspects. Stephen indicated he was appalled not only by the various tranches of unnecessary national security legislation itself - including the extraordinary powers given to ASIO to access individuals computers, the exemption of ASIO officers from prosecution, the criminalising of reporting on ASIO special operations, and the ability to cancel passports without notice or right of appeal - but also that Labor has "rolled over" to pass them.
"I’m afraid I’ve got to the point where I don’t think Labor believes in anything," Stephen said, "Everything is tradeable. It is a political tactic to enable them to say there is not a cigarette paper of difference between them and the government on this stuff."
Source: The Saturday Paper, 14/03/15
NSW Council for Civil Liberties has indicated its opposition to the creation of a new spitting offence, proposed by the Police Association of NSW. An act of this nature is already covered under the existing offence of assault, and so further legislation is unnecessary. The police union is also calling for powers that force anyone who transmits a bodily fluid - including spit, blood or urine - to emergency workers, to be tested for diseases. CCL would support the introduction of this kind of mandatory testing provided there is appropriate regulation and safeguards in place.
Source: 9 News, 11/3/15
NSWCCL President warns against 'not guilty' pleas and privacy issues concerning domestic violence register
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks has warned against the automatic placement of offenders on a proposed domestic violence register, strongly urging that a court should decide whether to place somebody on the register based on an assessment of their risk to the community.
"If it's automatic, we will see an enormous change in the way people treat their defence," he said. "It will be a huge incentive on everyone charged with domestic violence offences to plead not guilty, which is quite counter-productive. We want a system where people are encouraged to recognise their guilt."
There are also potential privacy issues associated with the proposed register: "You don't want people getting information off the register and putting it on Facebook". Mr Blanks argues that access to the register should be strictly regulated.
Persons on the register should also be notified if their information has been accessed. While it has been argued that this could deter persons from checking the register, Mr Blanks affirms that it is a "fundamental privacy principle...People are entitled to know when information about them is being disclosed."
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 6/3/2015
Source: SBS News, 6/3/2015
Source: 2SER 107.3, 9/3/2015
Following on from the release of the PJCIS Report into the Data Retention Bill on Friday 27/02/15 CCL Vice President Oscar Coleman spoke to FBi's Backchat program about the report, labelling the proposed metadata laws 'the worst in the developed world'. Oscar stated the report made only minor recommendations to the Bill and still supports 'largely what [Attorney-General] Brandis wanted to do in the first place'. He encouraged listeners to contact their Labor MP or Senator.
Audio: Data Retention Bill
NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks spoke to The Wire in response to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s comments that mandatory data retention is necessary to combat terrorism and child sexual abuse, arguing that this is not a counter-terrorism measure.
Stephen told The Wire: "The Government should allow parliament proper time to consider all of its ramifications… In countries where there are human rights standards, Governments and Parliaments are rejecting this kind of legislation because it involves a disproportionate invasion of people's privacy for no proven benefit."
He warned that police will have easy access to the metadata as "there is no independent supervision of the law enforcement agencies when they access data…There are [also] a very large number of [other] agencies in Australia that have access to metadata and this proposal will give those agencies enormous powers." Stephen further stated that access to our collected metadata should be subject to a court warrant first.
Story/Audio: Metadata laws; fighting crime or invading privacy?
In a YouTube video released on Sunday the Prime Minister has hinted at a national security crackdown involving the tightening of migration and welfare rules. On SBS News NSWCCL President Stephen Blanks argued that a further national security crackdown could be counter productive:
"You don't defeat every terrorist incident by increasing the powers of the national security agencies. You don't destroy freedom in order to protect it. What you do is you should promote community coherence. You should make sure everybody in our society is committed to our common ideals and not drive wedges between them because driving wedges between them is going to perpetuate these kinds of attacks."
Stephen also warned that possible welfare changes could result in a backlash from innocent Australians:
"The community is going to find that very intrusive and unacceptable. People should not have to say they reject terrorism in order to get a Centrelink benefit. That is something that something that is just going too far. That is going to make people suspicious of the entire security apparatus that has been erected around them."
Stephen also spoke to "the Wire", noting that following the extraordinary case of Man Haron Monis, reactionary bail reforms appear to be on the agenda and threaten to undermine the fundamental presumption of innocence: "Bail is not an excuse to start locking people up as if they are presumed guilty." He also warned that welfare reforms could potentially lead to 'McCarthy' style systems where welfare recipients may need to prove that they are not terrorist sympathisers in order to receive benefits.
Article/Audio: National Security - have we been too lenient too long?
Source: The Wire, 16/2/2015
Civil liberties councils across Australia organised the screening [of Citizenfour] with the help of Greens Senator Scott Ludlam. The award-winning film documents the circumstances in which Snowden blew the lid off the NSA's mass surveillance activities in the US and the Britain.
Queensland Labor MP Graham Perrett says he has serious concerns about the Abbott government's proposed data retention bill but remains confident it can be passed with judicious amendments.
"I'm not a big fan of anyone revealing information that puts any of our professional staff at risk but I do know that the enthusiasm of intelligence agencies needs to be moderated and I think that Parliament has an important role in that,"Mr Perrett.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 11/2/2015
Article: Civil liberties councils bring #Citizenfour to Canberra, No Fibs, 11/2/2015
Article: Data retention hinges on Labor's support, ZDNet, 13/02/2015
Article: Citizenfour: meet NSA whistleblower Snowden, Honi Soit, 18/02/2015