Real story missed

The ALP holds a database of disturbingly private information about voters. The Age accesses it in order to expose it. The Herald Sun‘s response? To bash The Age and defend the outrageous abuse of ordinary voters’ privacy:

VICTORIA Police has launched a criminal investigation into allegations senior reporters from The Age newspaper illegally hacked into an ALP electoral roll database and searched the private details of dozens of high-profile Victorians…

The database, which Labor is legally entitled to hold, contains personal details of millions of Victorians including names, addresses, phone numbers and marital status as well as any confidential dealings between individuals and the party.

WHY is Labor “legally entitled” to hold this material, deceptively obtained? They don’t warn ordinary people who write to them, or communicate with them, that their details will be recorded and kept. They don’t warn those who fill in those voter enrolment forms and send them back to the nominated address, which happens to be ALP headquarters, that they’ll be noting down their private details.

Both big parties do it, so it’s not surprising they’ve made sure it’s not against the law – but isn’t that precisely the sort of thing for which the media should hold them to account? Well, not the Herald Sun. Taking advantage of ordinary people? That’s fine with us. Calling to account those who take that advantage? An outrage!

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9 responses to “Real story missed

  1. But if they can ‘gotcha’ Fairfax with a hacking scandal, then they’re hacking won’t seem so bad…

    “See, they’re just as bad as us!… Never mind that they are bringing the Labor party to account, and we hacked a dead girls voicemail… They’re just as bad as us!”

  2. Their hacking won’t seem so bad… ”
    Stupid cut and paste…

  3. narcoticmusing

    To be fair, if you to someone and later write again, you expect them to remember what was discussed last time. For an MP, especially a portfolio Minister to recall of that, they’d need to record it somehow – what your concerns were and how they were addressed.

    It is not necessarily ‘deceptively’ obtained if it is the recording of concerns of constituents to enable a better response. We should be concerned about the security of such databases though.

    I am surprised that you are not concerned with Fairfax hacking into such things. While it might expose the lack of security on the database, it is not ok for Fairfax to go around hacking confidential systems for the very reason that they contain private information. You don’t honestly think Fairfax will act in the best interest of those whose information was hacked do you? Fairfax will do what they do – profit.

  4. Splatterbottom

    This story has been around for months. But given it was Fairfax, there was no need to bring it up in the context of a media enquiry aimed specifically at News Limited. But you can bet that if it was News Ltd they’d be covered in Green slime by now.

  5. Just another example of the HeraldSmut to sensationalise ,discredit and divert. It’s what the Dirty Diggers crew do so well.

  6. It is not necessarily ‘deceptively’ obtained if it is the recording of concerns of constituents to enable a better response.

    They are quite definitely deceptive about it. They do NOT warn constituents that they’ll be keeping their details on file.

    Also, there’s that nasty little enrolment trick both big parties do, where they drop off enrolment forms with prepaid envelopes that send them back to their own headquarters to be entered onto the database before being forwarded to the AEC. Voters have no idea that’s going on.

  7. narcoticmusing

    Jeremy I think it is pretty ignorant to expect a group to not attempt to recall what was last written to them, given a major complaint of people that write to Ministers is that they have written several times (often to different MPs) and there is no magical link up between it all. People that write to Ministers expect Ministers to read the letters personally as if the Minister only gets a couple letters a week. In fact, it is thousands per week and no Minister can possibly track them all – ergo, Departments reply. Nevertheless, there is an expectation that ‘you’ will be remembered. So, say you wrote to the Minister and then you were at a function – if the Minister doesn’t recall your letter you act as if he doesn’t care.

    I border on paranoid as to my personal details so I very much dislike the idea of such a database and agree with you on the enrolment form treatment; but recording matters people raise in letters is not an attempt to profile people but an attempt to recall previous matters. I think you give the parties too much credit – they are far too incompetent to profile etc – so again, the biggest concern is the security of the info and the collecting of the enrolment form info.

  8. jordanrastrick

    They are quite definitely deceptive about it. They do NOT warn constituents that they’ll be keeping their details on file

    There’s no general obligation to warn anyone you will be keeping their details on file, and whether there’s implicitly deception or not varies on a case-by-case basis and depends on the context. Without seeing the actual database in this instance, its hard to judge .

    Its almost certainly legal, unlike The Age’s accessing of it, which is almost certainly illegal, despite being arguably ethically sound journalism. But its not entirely uncommon that what’s ethical for a journalist happens to be against the law.

    Also, there’s that nasty little enrolment trick both big parties do, where they drop off enrolment forms with prepaid envelopes that send them back to their own headquarters to be entered onto the database before being forwarded to the AEC

    Yeah, well that’s deceptive, although more “little” than “nasty”.

  9. narcoticmusing

    Btw, I must admit I use the term hacking as it was the term used in this blog – I understand it was use of username/password provided by an insider. I think it is just as indefensible. How much different is it when my cleaner gives the Age my apartment key to someone just climbing in the window? Either way it is completely unauthorised trespass and they (Fairfax) knew it. Most real hacking involves a level of unauthorised usage of legitimate usernames/passwords (often procured by fraud).

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