Cyber law turns ordinary people into criminals

One of Australia’s top educationalists has warned that cyber laws are turning ordinary people into criminals.

Peter Black, who is the senior lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology told AP that laws were so broad that they criminalised much “ordinary activity”.

Black said that the arrest of a Fairfax journalist over his receipt of an unauthorised Facebook photo “defies sensible explanation”. The whole matter shows up holes in the Australian cybercrime laws

Fairfax deputy technology editor Ben Grubb was arrested by Queensland Police and threatened with charges relating to the receipt of “tainted material”..

Black said it was very unusual for police to spring into action over an alleged theft of digital photos. Grubb’s crime was to pen a yarn about a security researcher who hacked into a rival’s wife’s Facebook account.

Inspector Knacker of the Queensland Yard held a press conference today where Brian Hay admitted that police were still cutting their teeth in the rapidly evolving online environment.

But he said that receiving an unauthorised photograph from someone’s Facebook account was the same as receiving a nicked telly.

Of course if data has the same status as telly, then all reporters could be arrested for reporting second hand facts. If a whistleblower tells us what a politician said to them behind closed doors, that would fit Hay’s nicked telly theory and we could all be banged up.

The way the Cyber Crime Act was drafted, Black said, was so broad that a whole range of “more or less ordinary activity” could attract criminal charges.

Guessing a password could be considered a criminal offence with a penalty of up to 10 years.”

Black pointed out that the speedy response of police in targeting Grubb was “totally inconsistent” with how police would usually respond to this sort of matter/

Normally if someone called up the coppers and complained that someone had accessed their Facebook page and taken their photos they would be laughed out of the police station.