Communications surveillance in the digital age


Contributing to the third GISWATCH report my chapter explored the net we had sought to create in the early 1990s, what it had become and where we seem to be headed. It reflects, in part, on an article I wrote just over 20 years ago, The Net: opportunity or threat, for 21C Magazine.

GISWATCH 2014 was launched at Memefest/Swinburne on Tuesday 18 November 2014.

A ground-breaking report on national and global mass surveillance will be launched on 18 November 2014 at the first Memefest/Swinburne at Swinburne University by contributing author Andrew Garton, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and Memefest/Swinburne, an extradisciplinary symposium and workshop. The report explores the surveillance of citizens in today’s digital age by governments with the complicity of institutions and corporations.

Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) aims for an open, inclusive and sustainable information society and has produced reports yearly since 2007. This year’s edition of GISWatch is entitled “Communications surveillance in the digital age” and contains thorough contextual analyses from civil society representatives in 58 countries. The reports in GISWatch 2014 expose governments’ use of weaknesses in legal systems and user ignorance to monitor, intercept, collect, analyse, use, preserve, retain and interfere with global internet communications.

Memefest/Swinburne and the APC invite you to enjoy presentations by Memefest special guests and contributing GISWatch 2014 author Andrew Garton. Presentations will be followed by an open discussion on solutions to protect human rights on the internet, followed by a light snacks and drinks.

GISWatch reports are available for download at

GISWatch 2014 is a publication of the Association for Progressive Communications and Hivos.


GISWatch 2010 – Australia and e-waste


GISWatch 2010 cover artEngageMedia contributed a chapter to the annual review, Global Information Society Watch (GISWatch) 2010, focusing on Australia’s contribution to environmentally benign technologies, from recycling to manufacture.

I spent a week researching and writing the report. It was pretty clear to me that the Australian government was lagging behind NGOs and the commercial sector in terms of a response to dealing with technology waste.

Australian’s have been chucking out e-waste for decades, but it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that any serious attempts at recycling were implemented. But it’ll take until 2011 before we will have a national response to this problem regulating what can and can’t be thrown into land-fill, for instance, by our government.

Read the full GISWatch 2010 Australia Country Report.

GISWatch 2010 argues that for technology to really benefit us, consumption patterns have to change.

It’s a rallying cry to electronics producers and consumers, policy-makers and development organisations promoting ICTs to pay urgent attention to the sustainability of the environment. Many of the report’s authors argue that business plans, roll-out agendas and developmental strategies will have to adapt for a sustainable future.

GISWatch 2010 spells out the impact the production and disposal of computers, mobile phones and other technology is having on the earth’s natural resources, and the massive global carbon footprint produced by their use.

The potential of ICTs to mitigate and adapt to climate change is also discussed, as are the roles of international institutions, the global research agenda on ICTs and climate change and “sustainability” as an evolving concept.

GISWatch 2010 covers some 53 countries and six regions including Latin America and the Middle East, with the key issues of ICTs and environmental sustainability explored in ten thematic reports.

The report is produced by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the world’s oldest online social justice network and the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos), the Dutch development agency.

For more on GISWatch go to

Pegasus 21 years on


Tuesday, 14 September 2010, Ian Peter and I celebrated 21 years  since Pegasus Networks officially went online from Terania Creek, NSW.

This historic moment was actuated via a Motorola “brick” direct to a satellite service burrowing into EcoNet / PeaceNet in the USA, the whole show powered by the sun from the back of a van. It was quite a moment. Ian had said that at the time the “net” was perhaps as large as three copies of Encyclopedia Brittanica and may be used by a lot of people within a decade.

Ian, though still involved in the Internet Society and the Internet Governance Forums, seems to have retired early. He’s building a new house over-looking the ocean on one of the most gorgeous coast-lines in Australia. I’m living in a mud-brick shack in the southern part of the country producing low budget documentaries and crafting songs out of my love for “anthro-diversity” (a term coined by my mate, David Nerlich). Curiously, doing much the same now than as I was before writing, “Welcome to Pegasus Networks” 21 years ago!

iSummit Day 01

Shot Bar

Shot Bar

Japanese service staff are so eager to assist, to ensure one is more than adequately served that it is a wonder, in their exuberance, they do not break! It has been said many many times that the Japanese are efficient. Today, Day 01 of the iSummit, I could do with a healthy dose of efficiency to bolster the headache incurred at the hand of the Shot Bar’s skilled shaker of an 800 Yen Martini.

The iSummit kicked off with a pro-active presentation and welcome introduction from Heather Ford, diving straight into global issues and the scope, the urgent need for open strategies to address them.

Heather was also quite direct about the global instrumentalities and institutions that have been largely ineffective in dealing with the very real problems we face… climate change, poverty, land use. Heather points to the need for open commons frameworks, open commons innovations, broad open commons protections to not only provide solutions to our problems, but to support ongoing development in general. Perhaps we need to understand what we mean by development in the context of global and local crisis? If we are to tackle climate change for instance, we need to address consumption and excess… but I digress.

Today Pavel Antenov and I begin work on the Identifying the Commons video. Unfortunately, one of the two camera’s I came here with has not lasted the distance. So, we’re down to one camera and a lot of people to interview… in essence, we are seeking to know what people at the iSummit understand as the commons, what they feel constitutes an information commons and finally, what are the concerns of developing countries in relation to the information/knowledge commons?