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Thanks for the data retention, tech sector

World's lamest lobby chalks up another win

While Australians wring their hands over data retention, let's also remember the tech sector's abject failure to influence politics in the seven years the debate's been running here.

The sector, from start-ups to international giants, merely continued its long run of failing to get what it wanted from Australian politics – a record that goes back at least to the 1990s.

From the privatisation of Telstra to the ideological neutering of the National Broadband Network; from the creation in 2000 of the Howard government's “banned Websites” list to 2015's data retention legislation (not to mention the copyright amendments now in parliament), the tech industry has never managed to even pick up the spare, let alone bowl a strike.

Credibility gap

It was with some incredulity, Vulture South supposes, that interested Australians listened to relentless data-harvesters warn of the threat of the data retention regime, since one of the IT industry's favourite stories of the last five years has been how it can know you better than you know yourself.

Telcos' warnings that the retained data would be difficult and expensive to secure also raised a bitter laugh in Vulture South's eyrie, since Telstra, Optus, AAPT (now split up and sold) and others have all suffered serious customer data leaks in the last few years.

(The very first time a hacker was convicted and jailed in this country, back in the 1990s, was for an attack on a long-dead ISP. The industry's security practices have always had holes.)

Telstra alone published more customer data in 2014 by accident in one incident than a year's worth of NatSec agency requests.

Vendor credibility is also a problem, since to criticise national security regimes while fighting tooth and nail to win national security contracts seems two-faced.

A spook's Ethernet switches, IP routers, servers, disks, operating systems, databases, word processors, crypto products – all of this comes from somewhere.

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