Monday, 27 March 2017

Australia Card Mark 3: Surprise! Without justification we will be collecting biometric data to create one centralised identity for each and every one of you and we will be retaining your metadata for an indefinite period at our discretion

The Turnbull Government received the Commonwealth Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) preliminary report, Initial Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) Alpha, in December 2016.

The origin of this particular digital identity proposal was a recommendation by the Financial System Inquiry set up by then Treasurer Joe Hockey in December 2015, with an inquiry committee dominated by representatives of banks and the financial services sector.

This preliminary Privacy Impact Assessment is the latest step in establishing a single digital identity for each and every Australian citizen, with all the same privacy and security risks as the formerly proposed Australia Card and Access Card.

It is proposed that an individual’s digital identity information will initially be made available to federal government departments/agencies and later to state government departments/agencies that apply to join the TDIF.

As yet there is no underlying legal authority for the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, much of the security arrangements for this framework are apparently not yet developed and a full independent risk assessment has either not been completed to date or is not publicly available.

Cross-border data transfers of personal information held on Australian citizens may occur under this framework.

It is expected that complaints and correction requests may cause some difficulties in the TDIF because multiple participants may each hold part of the relevant data and responsibility for dealing with complaints and corrections may be difficult to determine.

On 24 March 2017 The Canberra Times reported:

The federal government is experimenting with a system that would allow Australians to use selfies to log onto Centrelink, Medicare and other Commonwealth services.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's digital re-invention agency is designing a system that would use "bio-metric" facial recognition technology to allow easy log-ins while protecting accounts from identity thieves.

The Digital Transformation Agency insists that no collection or data base of images would be built, the system would be voluntary and the strictest privacy safeguards would be in place.

But privacy activists are worried the idea is simply a high-tech version of the unpopular "Australia card" plan, resurrected more than 20 years after the national ID scheme was dumped.

The government is determined to improve to access to its services online, to save time and money, and to step-up the automation of many of its core activities, particularly in the expensive health and welfare sectors.

But security and privacy has been a huge issues, with many of the problems associated with the much-maligned myGov portal put down to the complex and glitch-prone log-in protocols……

A user of the proposed new system, after establishing their account, would log-in by scanning their traditional forms of ID and as a fail-safe against hacker and identity thieves, take a selfie and upload it from their mobile, tablet or computer.

Central [to] the architecture of the scheme would be an online "identity exchange", a portal that would confirm to a government agency, Centrelink for example, that a user's identity had been verified and cleared to use their account but would not supply the photo or any other data used to make the confirmation.

But talks with "stakeholders" including state and federal privacy authorities as well as online privacy campaigners, have begun to reveal the full complexity of the privacy problems facing the TDIF.

Many of those consulted were surprised they had not already heard of such a game-changing project  and questioned the motivation for the decision.

"Stakeholders queried whether due consideration had been given to the failure of previous centralised models in the Commonwealth identity field, such as the Australia Card and the Access Card," Galexia reported.

There were worries that various parts of the system "would obtain, over time, a large and rich source of personal data that will be attractive to third parties for surveillance...or subject to external attack (e.g. hackers), and  or subject to accidental breach."

"The consequences of surveillance or a breach were likely to be significant," Galexia noted.

""Some stakeholders predicted that, over time, each [agency] would collect biometric information (photographs) and contribute to the development of a national data set of photographs.

"Although there is no intention to retain photographs in the TDIF, and they are destroyed as soon as a verified match has been made, stakeholders believed that 'it was only a matter of time' before the system was changed and photographs were retained and shared."

A prototype of the TDIF system is expected to be ready for testing in mid-2017….

Key stakeholders consulted sometime in October-November by Galexia Pty Ltd for its 5 December 2016 report:

Australia Post
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)
Australian Privacy Foundation (APF)
Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection Victoria (CPDP)
Department of Finance, Services and Innovation NSW (DFSI)
Digital Rights Watch           
Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC)
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)
Office of the Information Commissioner QLD (OIC)
Queensland Government Chief Information Office (QGCIO)
Queensland SmartService (Digital Productivity and Services Division)
Service NSW

According to Galexia on Page 27 of its report:

In the consultation conducted for this PIA, the following views were expressed on this issue:

* Stakeholders questioned where the decision had ‘come from’ as it appeared to take nearly all stakeholders by surprise;
* Stakeholders queried the link between the decision to establish a single Commonwealth IdP and the recommendations of the Murray Report (which in part endorses the development of multiple IdPs in order to foster competition, choice and innovation);
* Stakeholders queried whether due consideration had been given to the failure of previous centralised models in the Commonwealth identity field, such as the Australia Card and the Access Card. Although stakeholders recognised some differences between those proposals and the TDIF in relation to the overall framework and the Identity Exchange, they viewed the decision to establish a single Commonwealth IdP as a ‘throwback’ to those earlier proposals. Even after detailed discussions and explanation on the details of the TDIF most stakeholders still viewed the single Commonwealth IdP as an updated version of the Australia Card / Access Card;
* Stakeholders were strongly of the view that such an important and far-reaching decision should have been the subject of extensive community consultation and debate, with many stakeholders calling for a public discussion paper and / or legislation; and
* Almost all stakeholders struggled to see any justification for the establishment of a single IdP – a common question was “what is the problem that needs to be solved?”.

Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources seeks to place farm lands and water security in jeopardy

This man is the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party of Australia and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

Photograph found at The AIM Network

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce is also the same man who is irresponsibly calling for the dismantling of the already inadequate protections afforded rural and regional lands and water resources when coal seam gas miners move into a district.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has started dismantling Australia's sweeping ban on coal seam gas drilling, arguing a new scheme to divert a share of government royalties to farmers will overcome furious opposition in the bush.

Mr Joyce on Friday embraced a South Australian government plan to pay farmers 10 per cent of royalties in exchange for allowing gas wells on their land, saying the scheme should be rolled out nationally, with an exclusion of prime agricultural land.

The Agriculture Minister said lifting moratoriums and giving landholders a fair price in exchange for access would equate to "a substantial turnaround in attitude and that is a very good outcome".

"I can't see people who start making hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of dollars a year having a backlash," Mr Joyce told Fairfax Media.

"I think you'll probably find them onside."

Mr Joyce's comments could cause political problems in regional Australia and will be opposed by some MPs in the Coalition party room, where views about the environmental, social and electoral impacts of CSG remain mixed……

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said moratoriums were "blunt instruments" but still needed "because of the lack of confidence the community, including the farming community, have in the way governments have regulated the gas industry in the past".

"Until we have absolute confidence these concerns have been addressed, then moratoriums will be part of the response," she said.

But Joyce said excluding prime agricultural land and productive aquifers from exploration would address most concerns….

Ms Simson said the National Farmers Federation welcomed the South Australian plan to "adequately compensate" farmers, but said "it's never been just about the money".

"The two things we can't and won't compromise on is the secure access to water and land," she said.

NSW Resources Minister Don Harwin said the state gas plan "makes clear that landholders and communities will share in the benefits of gas development, and the government has already made legislative changes to deliver on this commitment."

Since July 2016 companies have been able to apply to establish a Community Benefits Fund from which individuals and organisations can apply for grants for community initiatives.

NSW landowners are also entitled to compensation under a land access agreement struck with a company wishing to drill on their land.

"Further compensation may be payable to landowners if there is any loss or damage resulting from exploration or production," Mr Harwin said.

But opponents say this is insufficient as landowners still have no right to refuse access.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said of Mr Joyce's statement: "Barnaby hasn't got the message that farmers won't be bribed. Rural community know coal seam gas destroys land values".

This is what typical coal seam gas production wells, supporting infrastructure and access roads looks like on rural land.

ABC Four Corners, 3 April 2013

Look at the birdie. Smile!

Photograph by ABC News journalist Nick Wiggins

The Bush Stone-curlew, or Bush Thick-knee, is a large, slim, mainly nocturnal, ground-dwelling bird. It is mostly grey-brown above, streaked with black and rufous. It is whitish below with clear, vertical black streaks. The bill is small and black, and the eye is large and yellow, with a prominent white eyebrow. Both sexes are similar. Young Bush Stone-curlews are similar in appearance to the adults, but are paler, and a little browner in colour. Bush Stone-curlews are nocturnal birds (night birds), doing all their feeding and other activities at night. 

If Bush Stone-curlews are nearby you may hear their eerie, high-pitched wailing at night. This ghost-like call is their contact call, and may be given by several birds in a chorus. Rendered as weer-lo, it is repeated four or five times, sometimes culminating in a trilled, screeching crescendo. It is sometimes also heard during the day, when stone-curlews are usually inactive, standing quietly in the shade with their eyes half-closed, or squatting on the ground where their cryptic plumage makes them difficult to see among the leaf litter. 

Listed as Endangered in New South Wales and Victoria. [Birdlife Australia]

The story of how this photograph came about can be found here.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Privately run vocational training 'colleges' - what could possibly go wrong?

Just one of many allegedly dodgy businesses allowed to flourish under a dubious federal education policy which saw state government-run TAFE colleges allowed to decline.

The Age, 13 March 2017:

Rich-list tycoons behind a vocational training empire that collapsed after receiving $100 million in government funding have been implicated in alleged fraud, predatory conduct towards vulnerable students and shocking vilification of business associates.

The claims of widespread malfeasance at Australian Careers Network have been laid bare during an extraordinary defamation trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria that was launched by ACN co-founder Atkinson Prakash Charan against the publisher of The Australian newspaper.

Mr Charan is a former Qantas baggage handler who joined forces with ex-policeman Ivan Brown and invested their last $500 to register their first vocational training business in 2012.

Just two years later, they joined the ranks of the BRW Young Rich List in 2014 with a stake in an estimated $177 million fortune when ACN was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

ACN was placed into voluntary administration last March after the federal government froze more than $40 million in payments under the VET FEE-HELP loans program.

The company is the subject of an ongoing fraud investigation by the federal Department of Education and Training. 

Charles M. Blow: "America elected a parasite"

If words could drive U.S. President Donald J. Trump from office he would be gone by now……….
The New York Times journalist Charles M. Blow on13 March 2017:
We have now passed the 50-day mark of the Donald Trump administration and one thing is clear: There is no new Trump.
There is only the same old Trump: Dangerous and unpredictable, gauche and greedy, temperamentally unsuited and emotionally unsound.
If you were trying to create in a lab a person with character traits more unbecoming in a president, it would be hard to outdo the one we have.
He continues to have explosive Twitter episodes — presumably in response to some news he finds unflattering or some conspiracy floated by fringe outlets — that make him look not only foolish, but unhinged…..
In these fits of rage, he generates a lie or repeats one, which shifts the burden of proof to the legitimate media to swat it down and defend the truth. This exercise is already getting old.
Trump’s assaults on the truth are not benign. Presidential credibility is American credibility. There is no way to burn through one without burning through the other.
And when he’s not making explosive charges, he’s taking destructive actions.
He has signed a slew of executive actions to demonstrate his power and signal his administrative direction.
As Business Insider pointed out, as of March 6, “The 45th president has signed 34 executive actions so far, with far-reaching effects on Americans’ lives.” These included “16 executive orders in 45 days.”….
As The Hill reported on Saturday, “President Trump paid a visit to one of his golf courses again Saturday, marking apparently his ninth visit to a golf course in the seven weeks since he took office.” The site pointed out, “Trump has made several weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., as well, calling the property the ‘Winter White House.’ ”
In February, numerous media outlets pointed out that Trump was spending on travel in a month nearly as much as what the Obamas spent in a year. This doesn’t even include the travel and security costs of Trump’s children or the cost of Trump’s wife and son remaining in Trump Tower in New York, at least for now, which is estimated to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousand of dollars a day.
This was particularly jarring because Trump had been a chief critic of the amount of money the Obamas spent on vacations. Indeed, Trump tweeted in 2012: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars — Unbelievable!”
No, what is unbelievable is the staggering nature of the hypocrisy of Trump and his current spending and the near silence of Obama’s conservative critics.
Trump appears to view the Treasury as a personal piggy bank and the presidency as a part-time job.
I think any who have been holding out hope that Trump will eventually change into someone more polished, professional and amenable than the man we have come to know must simply abandon that hope.
This is a 70-year-old man who has lived his entire life as the vile, dishonest, incurious creature who got elected. That election validated his impulses rather than served as a curb on them.
Trump will continue to debase and devalue the presidency with his lies. Trump will continue to follow Bannon’s philosophy of internal deconstruction of our government, its principles and its institutions. And Trump will continue to leech as much personal financial advantage as he can from the flesh of the American public.
That’s who Trump is. America elected a parasite.
* Photograph from Google Images.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Just because it is beautiful.........(25 )

Ghost Fungus

White & large fan shaped when mature
bioluminescent at night & poisonous

Native to Australia
Found in south-east Queensland, eastern New South Wales,
Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia
and south-western West Australia

Political Cartoon of the Year 2017

Mark David, Australian cartoonist