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More on the Oz Crimenet story

By Dacta in News
Tue May 09, 2000 at 11:00:50 AM EST
Tags: News (all tags)
News

An Australian site called Crimenet was launched the other day. Briefly, the site allows you to search for anyone's criminal record. It gained national television coverage, as well as a story on Slashdot, and with the hits generated by this amount of coverage, the site struggled to cope, and has been down for considerable periods.

It's back up now, and despite opposition from most IT and media outlets in Australia (here and here) and from the privacy commissioner the site's owners are going ahead and claiming a successful launch.


This kind of thing really puts Australia's privacy laws into perspective. Basically, the privacy commissioner has no power to actually do anything but complain to the governments involved about the privacy violations.

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More on the Oz Crimenet story | 14 comments (14 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Can anyone provide more info on who... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Tue May 09, 2000 at 03:26:14 AM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Can anyone provide more info on who the "Privacy Commissioner" is, and what the rols of that post is in Australia? I'm not familiar with the setup over there.

____
Not the real rusty

Re: Can anyone provide more info on who... (none / 0) (#13)
by Prospero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 11:44:01 PM EST

The privacy commissioner is an independent office of the government. They act as an intermediary for complaints about government use of priviledged information.

Lots of info at their web site: http://www.privacy.gov.au/about/index.html
... and never, ever play leapfrog with a unicorn.
[ Parent ]

Although it is easy to scaremonger ... (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by Prospero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 03:27:57 AM EST

Prospero voted 1 on this story.

Although it is easy to scaremonger this story, it is important to note that the information being published is not new information, or a police abusing their records for profit, but old, readily available information, published in a new format.

Australian newspapers have carried court listings for many years; unless you are a juvenile, any newspaper has the right to print your name if you are charged and/or convicted. Putting this information into a net accessible database isn't a huge conceptual leap.

What is NOT being done (AFAIK) are searches on official, police maintained criminal records. The police have NOT opened their files to a private company.

In almost every western nation, individuals have the right to sit in on court proceedings - it's part of the whole "checks and balances" process. Crimenet is just paying for someone to sit in court and take names, and puts this information in an easy to search format.

I agree that it is ripe for abuse (especially if John Smith is convicted of a paedophilia - but which John Smith?), but this particular loophole has existed for a long time - an open judicial system is generally considered one of the cornerstones of a democracy. This sort of personal information is inherently public if we accept an open judicial system. Arguing what constitutes ethical use of this information is a much bigger can of worms...
... and never, ever play leapfrog with a unicorn.

What is this article saying that th... (none / 0) (#5)
by inspire on Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:36:06 AM EST

inspire voted -1 on this story.

What is this article saying that the other ones arent?

  • Here is a link to crimenet
  • It got slashdotted but its all better now
  • Australia's privacy laws are really fucked, eh?
Re: What is this article saying that th... (none / 0) (#9)
by ramses0 on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:36:32 PM EST

But then again, all three of those points intersect in that nexus known as "technology and culture", eh? ;^)=

I haven't read the links yet, but it sounds a lot like Australia is very close to being a testbed for technology and privacy issues, kindof like California is in the US for weird laws like legalizing marijuana.

I'm just glad I don't live in Australia, although I'd love to visit it sometime.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]
[ Parent ]

One of my professors is visiting fr... (none / 0) (#3)
by evro on Tue May 09, 2000 at 04:37:48 AM EST

evro voted 1 on this story.

One of my professors is visiting from Australia and he remarked how odd it was that Americans were in such an uproar over the government begging everyone to answer the questions on race on this year's census. He said that that kind of thing was simply required on Australia and if you didn't do it you would go to jail (I'm guessing he was joking about that). Kind of made me wonder about Australia's privacy issues, as does this Crimenet thing.
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"

Re: One of my professors is visiting fr... (none / 0) (#12)
by Prospero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 07:57:31 PM EST

One of my professors is visiting from Australia and he remarked how odd it was that Americans were in such an uproar over the government begging everyone to answer the questions on race on this year's census. He said that that kind of thing was simply required on Australia and if you didn't do it you would go to jail (I'm guessing he was joking about that).

I don't know about jail, but your prof wasn't entirely joking. Failure to complete a census is an offense - IIRC, a finable one. Same goes for voting - you must (at a minimum) have your name ticked off on the electoral roll on election day, or face fines or imprisonment.

Kind of made me wonder about Australia's privacy issues, as does this Crimenet thing.

It's worth remembering that although Australia and the US share a common British ancestry, the US was formed by colonists who were equal parts puritans and libertarians. Consequently, throughout the entire US legal system, there is a strong sense of God, and a strong sense of liberty and freedom. You have a bill of rights, a strong ideas based constitution, and had a war to make sure the British butted out.

Australia, on the other hand, was a penal colony, whose legal system was (until 1983) completely indistinguishable from the British system (i.e., until 1983, you could appeal a decision of the High Court of Australia in the British High Court, or to the Law Lords at Westminster). There is no bill of rights, the constitution is purely a functional one (how many states, style of governement, etc), and Australia has never had a war with anyone over our national ideals.

These privacy issues stem from a much longer heritage than the policy of the current government. Australian government is drawn from a monarchistic background, and operates on that basis; it's strongly authoritarian - reserving the right to tell you what to do and when, and the right to find out about you whatever it wants to find out. The government grants the citizen specific freedoms, rather than accepting that it is 'self evident' that a citizen is born `having certain unalienable rights`.

Trying to get the government to give up authoritarian control is a difficult task, especially so without the benefit of an emotional event to bind the people. Australia has not yet had it's Boston Tea Party. Consequently, Joe Aussie Sixpack couldn't care that his rights are not explicitly stated or protected - why should he care? He's never been threatened, and he can't think of how he could be threatened.


... and never, ever play leapfrog with a unicorn.
[ Parent ]

This is fantastic news. Why has it... (none / 0) (#8)
by mebreathing on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:40:54 AM EST

mebreathing voted 1 on this story.

This is fantastic news. Why has it been private all this time?

One the one hand, this is an atroci... (none / 0) (#4)
by pwhysall on Tue May 09, 2000 at 08:17:59 AM EST

pwhysall voted 1 on this story.

One the one hand, this is an atrocious invasion of people's privacy.

One the other, Australia is not a lot of people a very long way away :)

/me ducks
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown

Is this a problem? I tutor a 1st ye... (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by Bradley on Tue May 09, 2000 at 09:03:11 AM EST

Bradley voted 1 on this story.

Is this a problem? I tutor a 1st year informations systems subject at Sydney Uni where the tutes discuss a different topic each week. This weeks topic was IT and privacy. I mentioned this database, as it was in the news a bit here, and got some interesting reactions from students. Personally, I had a sort of gut feeling that this is an invasion of privacy, but now I'm not sure. A few students felt that all the records in the database are (from what I could see) obtained from public records, and so is probably available to anyone. Court records should generally be publicly avaliable in the interests of justice. So what's wrong with taking these (paper) records, entering them into a database, and making the database searchable? The information is, after all, the same - its just the presentation which differs. Does ease of use play a role in whether a collection of information is an invasion of privacy? Isn't that the uses of computers - to make repetative tasks (like sorting through court records) easier? How is this different to something like AUSTLII, which puts some court cases on line - those can be searched as well. Does the fact that there is a fee attached make a difference? According to their webpage, minor offences are not published - presumably this information is still available from paper records (although I'm not sure - they do mention that "minor convictions are expunged after a certain time under 'spent convictions' rules") - does this matter? The possibility of inserting false data obviously exists, but I convieniently ignored that. Errors and responsibility for them in computer systems is next weeks topic :) (On that note does anyone have a good non-technical intro to UCITA? This other part of the course is mainly in using MS Office, so most students don't have much computers experience. Just short - there are other topical computer errors at the moment.)

Fix the spelling first. successful.... (none / 0) (#2)
by hattig on Tue May 09, 2000 at 09:39:28 AM EST

hattig voted 0 on this story.

Fix the spelling first. successful. commissioner.

This system has its uses (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Hero on Tue May 09, 2000 at 12:41:55 PM EST

Hmm, while I'm not so keen on the idea of privacy violations, whether they are technically illegal or not, I can see benefits from having a public resource where people who are convicted criminals can be listed and searched for.

One of the worst types of criminal, the paedophile, has an almost 100% chance of reoffending upon their release from prison. There was a case where one offender begged to be kept in jail because he knew he'd reoffend if he was released, but they let him out, and sure enough he did it again. These people have something wrong with them, and they are a real danger to children.

Knowing if there are any of these people near you is essential to the safety of children, and many countries have gone down this route with lists of sex offenders and other similar mechanisms. They enable the comman man or woman to do what the police cannot do, constrained by the law as they are, that is make sure their children are kept safe. This kind of system takes the burden from the police and allows the public to take responsibility for dealing with this kind of dangerous offender in a way the police cannot.

So from this point of view, I'm for it.



thoughts (none / 0) (#11)
by mattc on Tue May 09, 2000 at 05:00:03 PM EST

Damn, They charge you to view the person's record!

It isn't a bad idea. If you were dating someone (for example) you could look their name up in this database, for your own safety.. Has anybody tried it? Do they should pictures of the people?

Also I'm wondering how big of a crime do you have to be involved in to get listed here.. if I am an austrialian and get caught speeding or loitering or something, am I going to be listed?

Re: thoughts (none / 0) (#14)
by Marcin on Wed May 10, 2000 at 02:13:32 AM EST

Also I'm wondering how big of a crime do you have to be involved in to get listed here.. if I am an austrialian and get caught speeding or loitering or something, am I going to be listed?

What's your last name? ;) Just kidding.

Continuing with my whacky humour, just keep on commiting bigger and bigger crimes and keep checking back until your name in the database. Then logon here and tell us all what the 'threshold' is. QED. :)

Your help is appreciated ;)
M.
[ Parent ]

More on the Oz Crimenet story | 14 comments (14 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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