The Case of the Little Pink Pussycat

There has been a lot of talk both online and offline since yesterday’s revelation that the Australian government wishes to force ISPs to log internet browsing histories for an extended period of time for all users, without the need for a warrant.

Without jumping to Orwellian conclusions – (lets remember, this is only a proposal at this time) – this concept would have massive implications for society in this country, should it ever come to pass.

Imagine you are a professional wrestler, with an image of power and aggression to satisfy your fans. You are rippling with muscles, and you shine you muscles with baby oil before every bout, and women just love you for your oozing masculinity.

However, secretly in your own home, you enjoy looking at pictures of little pink pussycats, wearing linen bonnets. No harm in that, but knowing that it might harm your public image, you prefer that it not be public knowledge.

So you keep it to yourself, and carry on with your wrestling career.

A year from now, a system administrator at your ISP, having a bad day, is threatened with the sack from his or her job. In an attempt to stave off the inevitable, they illegally take a copy of the ISP browsing history of all customers of the ISP. Including yours. Covering several years of your online activities.

A few days later, the administrator loses their job, but still has a copy of the logs at home. Enraged for losing their job, they collate the logs user-by-user.

They notice your logs, and your frequent visits to “” and – (probably correctly) – deduce that you are into that. As revenge on their former employer for losing their job, and against you for beating up their favourite wrestler the week before, they release the log of your activities onto an internet forum.

Your public image is severely compromised. You could seek an apology and compensation, but the “truth” is already out there, and can never be taken back.

Should you have refrained from entertaining yourself online with a subject you are interested in, just because the information might become public someday?

No – your right to privacy has been infringed, because although my example is a bit “out there”, the mere collection of such data opens the possibility for the abuse of that data.

The government may swear that they will have “checks and balances” in place to protect it, however you can never guard against everything. Does a traffic light turning red actually FORCE a driver to stop?

Any person with access/exposure to the data has the potential to abuse it – and you can never guarantee that someone with a grudge to bear won’t use the data for evil purposes.

Sure, they would face consequences, but the deed is done. The information is out.

The government say they would just be following a similar model to that which is in place in the EU. Who says the EU is right about this?

Our government may think it is a good idea to keep this data, and certainly there would be advantages for law enforcement agencies if such data was collected and kept.

But the data would exist. Data that exists can be leaked, stolen, and/or abused.

What “little pink pussycats” do you have in your closet?