Tagged Australia

Australia bids farewell to its Queen

From American Thinker.Com

October 29, 2011

John McMahon

After a 10 day visit, our beloved Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth, has departed our shores, probably for the last time as she is aged 85, to return home to Buckingham Palace.

Wherever she went and whatever event she attended she was greeted by tens upon tens of thousands of well wishers and admirers, in many cases up to 20 deep.

Her farewell public barbeque today in Perth, Western Australia, attracted a joyful crowd of 100,000 of all ages, from babies, children, youth, mums and dads and the elderly and from many Races including Sudanese, and from Australians of all political persuasions. Her visit was telecast across the World to 40 Nations. She is a magnificent unifying force indeed.

The principal reason for her visit was to open CHOGM , Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting – this family of Nations comprises some 54 countries from all points across the Globe.

Wouldn’t Obama be envious of the adulation, admiration and the sustained popularity that the Queen has enjoyed since her Coronation in 1953? She has made 16 visits to our shores as Queen and is more welcome than ever. Wouldn’t he just love to draw the crowds that Her Majesty does!

Today Obama is yesterday’s man; after almost 60 years the Queen is as much loved as ever.

Anger in Australia as school books ‘write Christ out of history’

From Christian Post.Com

Australian education officials are working to remove any references of Christ in their school textbooks, which has caused an outrage in the country’s Christian community.

According to FOX News, the government is working to eliminate the usage of “BC,” an acronym for Before Christ and “AD” which stands for “Anno Domini.” Instead, the new terms for usage in education texts would be “BCE,” which would stand for Before Common Era, “BP,” which would represent Before Present and “CE” which means Common Era.

Although a spokesperson for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority told The Herald Sun that the change was a normal way to represent dates in history, the Christian community in the country views things differently.

The Australian Christian community is calling the move to banish “BC” from textbooks a “Christian cleansing,” according to FOX radio.

Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney, spoke to the Daily Telegraph about his thoughts on eliminating Jesus Christ from educational texts. Jensen called the move an “intellectually absurd attempt to write Christ out of human history.”

Jensen explained that Christ was an important figure in history to all people.

“It is absurd because the coming of Christ remains the centre point of dating and because the phrase ‘common era’ is meaningless and misleading,” he said to the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Fred Nile, a minister in New South Wales, told The Daily Telegraph that the announcement was a “final insult” to Christians in Australia and “an absolute disgrace.”

Nile said he feels the move is an attempt to remove any traces of Christianity from the country.

“The direction of the national curriculum is towards almost a Christian cleansing to remove from our history any references to the role Christianity had in the formation of Australia and still has today,” he told The Telegraph.

– Prophecy News Watch

Genome power is about to sweep world: Nobel laureate

From The Age.Com.Au

Nobel laureate Barry Marshall plans to become the first Australian to post his own full genetic code, or genome, on the internet, even though it does reveal unsettling insights.

His nearly-completed six-billion-piece code shows he is at nearly three times higher lifetime risk of macular degeneration and double for testicular cancer and for Alzheimer’s disease.

”If I develop Alzheimer’s disease, that’s bad luck, but it’s not going to worry me,” says Professor Marshall.

The power of the genome to reveal each individual’s biological strengths and weaknesses will guide diagnosis and identify effective drugs for individual patients in a revolution about to sweep world medicine, he says.

”It is not going to be long before every Australian will be carrying their genome on a smart card.

”This is going to be an enormous and unprecedented help to their health,” says the doctor, who swallowed a laboratory culture to prove that bacteria caused stomach ulcers.

It was an idea that confounded the medical orthodoxy but ultimately won him and Dr Robin Warren the Nobel prize.

At the National Press Club yesterday, Professor Marshall predicted that in a decade we would have our genome on our smart phones and be able to routinely gain access to those of prospective boyfriends or girlfriends.

People would get used to the swings and roundabouts of knowing their genetic make-up as the benefits to their health became clear and treatment got better-targeted.

He told of his wife’s concern about her own mother’s macular degeneration, which were allayed when a genome scan found she did not have her mother’s gene for the blinding condition.

Treatments of conditions like high cholesterol would continue to improve as doctors took advantage of routinely upgraded refinements of genetic influences.

”Australians currently seem too paranoid to truly embrace genomics. Yet there will soon be thousands of human genomes publicly available,” he says, pointing to the publishing of their genomes by gene map pioneer Dr Craig Venter and South African Bishop Desmond Tutu. His comments come as Australian health authorities grapple with how to authorise new drugs dependent on pre-genetic testing. He believes that the growing demand for personal genomes – already available in preliminary form for as little as $200 – will require a huge increase in experts to interpret the lengthy sequences of letters comprising the human DNA.

Professor Marshall says Australia, like the US, should legislate against discriminatory practices like higher life insurance premiums on the basis of genetic tests.

Ronald Trent, professor of medical molecular genetics at Sydney University, says that any data individuals publish that might be interpreted as having an adverse health risk could potentially be used by life insurance companies, but not health funds, to determine policies.

But Professor Trent said Australia and the US systems were not comparable given Australian measures like the Disability Discrimination Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on genetic grounds, and the availability of universal health insurance.

– Prophecy News Watch

‘Jesus: A Prophet of Islam’ – Muslim Group Runs Provocative Billboard Campaign

From Christian Post.Com

Billboards have emerged across Sydney, Australia, carrying the slogan “Jesus: a prophet of Islam.” The advertising campaign is being run by Islamic group “MyPeace,” which has said that the purpose of the campaign is to encourage interfaith relations between Christians and Muslims.

However, a number of Christians in the region have condemned the controversial campaign and called for the billboards to be removed, labeling them as provocative and offensive to Christianity.

Catholic bishop Julian Poreous, of the Archdiocese of Sydney, has clarified that for Christians Jesus was “more than a prophet” as the campaign suggests.

He said: “He is the Son of God. He is acclaimed Lord and Savior of humanity.”

MyPeace has claimed it means no offense by the campaign and that it simply is trying to show to everyone that Islam follows the teachings of Jesus too. By encouraging this common ground to be found between the two faith groups, the organization hopes closer interfaith communications can come about.

Bishop Poreous, however, commented: “In Australia with its Christian heritage a billboard carrying the statement `Jesus A prophet of Islam’ is provocative and offensive to Christians.”

The bishop has also lamented that the incendiary campaign has the potential to damage relations between the Christian Church and the Muslim community.

“It is important that religions do not set out to antagonize those with differing beliefs. This would threaten the social harmony which we enjoy in Australia.

“Dialogue between the religions can only take place when it is founded in mutual respect. It is not fostered by provocative statements,” he said.

“For the sake of preserving social harmony and respect between major world religions these billboards should be withdrawn, along with others which carry messages directly offensive to Christians.”

Interestingly, Diaa Mohamed of MyPeace, has reported to Fairfax, one of Australia’s leading media groups, that the campaign has received an “overwhelmingly positive feedback from Christians, atheists, Muslims, everyday Australians.”

MyPeace has said that it has decided to extend the campaign beyond the original four weeks, and follow-up billboards will carry even more controversial slogans such as “Holy Quran: the final testament,” and “Muhammad: mercy to mankind.”

It is planned that the campaign will spread to buses running throughout Sydney.

– Prophecy News Watch

Losing My Religion – Canada, Australia, New Zealand Face Sharp Religious Decline

From Canada.Com

Religion may be on the road to extinction in Canada — mathematically speaking, that is.

Travelling with us are Australia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.

A study presented Tuesday at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas noted a steady rise in the percentage of those countries’ residents who claim no religious affiliation, and explained how social factors could help push religion toward the dustbin of history.

Richard Weiner, a University of Arizona researcher and one of the study’s authors, explained the formula’s conclusions.

“There’ll be a continuing loss of membership among people that identify themselves as belonging to a religion. Over time, we could reach a time where society is dominated by people who claim religious non-affiliation,” he said.

The study attempted to link these countries’ religious identities with the social motives behind belonging to particular groups. Researchers said that as the masses who claim religious non-affiliation swell, it becomes more appealing to join the ranks of that group.

“The model predicts that for societies in which the perceived utility of not adhering is greater than the utility of adhering, religion will be driven toward extinction,” the study said.

“We tried to quantify . . . that the perceived utility of non-affiliation is greater than the perceived utility of belonging to a religion,” added Weiner. “That effect is enough to start driving people to the group that’s non-affiliated, and then as more people become non-affiliated, that makes the group more attractive.”

Weiner speculated that social pressures are contributing to the decline in religious identification in these countries. “People no longer see the slate of benefits as being as great as they probably did 100 years ago. It’s become less socially useful.”

Daniel Abrams, one of the study’s co-authors, used a similar model in 2003 to predict the decline of the world’s lesser-spoken languages.

A 2006 Statistics Canada report noted that 16 per cent of Canadians reported no religious affiliation in 2001, up from four per cent 30 years earlier. However, young Canadians are even less religious, with close to half of 15-29 year olds claiming no religious identity in 2004.

In the Netherlands, where close to 50 per cent of the population identifies as not belonging to a religion, Weiner said they found that by mid-century close to 70 per cent of the country will be made up of non-believers.

“That’s very substantial growth over four decades,” Weiner said. “It’s not saying that religion will not exist, but it will very strongly change the makeup of society. Maybe in 100 years in some of these countries if this trend continues, there will be a very small percentage of people that still identify themselves as belonging to a religion.”

However, University of Ottawa sociologist Diane Pacom cautioned against writing off religion as a part of Canada’s culture.

“Even if Canadians say (their affiliation) to their friends, publicly they won’t say it because it’s not cool,” she said.

Pacom added that religion’s role in society is hard to capture, as traditionally religious activities like weddings are still commonly practised — even without the religious meaning it once had.

“Religion may not be seen as a practice, but as a way of living it’s still very present. No mathematical formula can catch that,” she said.

– Prophecy News Watch

Yes, Violence Can be the Answer

From American Thinker.Com

March 23, 2011

Yes, Violence Can be the Answer

By Selwyn Duke

It was the body slam heard around the world.  When some Australian schoolboys decided to videotape themselves bullying 15-year old Casey Heynes, one of them got more than he bargained for.  Casey, who had been pushed around and humiliated for years, responded to a punch in his face and other attempted blows by hoisting his tormentor WWE style and introducing him to the pavement.  The result was a video that went viral in a way the bullies had never imagined and for a reason they certainly had never hoped: Casey has become a hero worldwide.

That is, a hero to everyone except the “experts.”  Ah, the experts, uncommon people you can rely on for all-too-common senselessness.  As The Sydney Morning Herald writes:
[P]olice and bullying experts are concerned by…the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the older boy’s retaliation against his attacker.
“We don’t believe that violence is ever the answer,” Mr Dalgleish [John Dalgleish, head of research at Kids Helpline and Boys Town] says. “We believe there are other ways that children can manage this.”
Yes, Casey could have done a ‘50s-style duck-and-cover.  Hey, kid, don’t you know you should just cower and curl up into a ball?  And, for sure, violence is never the answer…except with the Nazis, Mussolini, and Napoleon; during the American Revolution, the Barbary Wars, and the Battle of Tours; and when stopping the criminals during the North Hollywood Shootout, University of Texas Tower Shooting, and incidents every single day in which someone, somewhere uses physical force to thwart a crime.  It’s never the answer — except, sometimes, when you actually have to deal with reality.
It’s hard to say what is more irritating about the “Violence is never the answer” nonsense, the stupidity or the insincerity of it.  It’s much like the mantra “Our strength lies in our diversity.”  It’s something people say because it’s a repeated big lie that has become “truth” and is politically correct; it’s a reflexive platitude uttered politician-like because that’s what “experts” are expected to say.  But if Mr. Dalgleish’s wife or child is attacked on the street, will he not find violence a very good answer?
Perhaps he’ll take the advice of another expert, child psychologist Susan Bartell, and find some other way to “manage” it.  When analyzing Casey’s response, she said, “A better course of action…would have been for him to walk away.  Would have been for him to immediately take the power away from the bully, who was punching him in the face, and just run away, walk away….”  “Take the power away from the bully….”  Good psychobabble that.  Lady, Casey did take the power away from the bully by making sure the bully couldn’t walk away.
The problem today is that we elevate experts above wise men.  And one of the signs of a decaying civilization is when those in authority prescribe unrealistic rules for the population, rules that they themselves would never, and could never, follow.  As to this, here is the rest of Dr. Bartell’s advice: “…walk away, and go and find the principal, the guidance counselor, teacher and tell them what had just happened to him.  Because those adults are really in a position to stop a child who is a bully….”
Again, this is ideology; it’s what she learned to say in psychology class.  And let’s apply this to the adult world.  If Mr. Dalgleish tried to “manage” an attack on his child by walking away and finding a police officer, the help he’d need might be in the area of forensic medicine.  And even if he were alone, it’s not always possible to walk away.  This is why billions of dollars are made off self-defense classes.
Another bit of obligatory-utterance advice offered by psychologist Bartell is the nonsense that “those adults [school officials] are really in a position to stop a child who is a bully.”  What bunk.  It’s hard to even call these adults authority figures anymore, as handcuffed by the law and their own ideology as they are.  These are people who think that “punishment” is a dirty word and a “time out” is enough to forestall dirty deeds.  And, even insofar as they may possess a hidden firm hand, they’re too shackled by education’s “rules of engagement” and the fear of lawsuits to exercise it.  Why do you think educators have, outrageously, sometimes responded to a bullied pupil by telling him to leave school?  The truth is that the only time punishment doesn’t fail to measure up to the behavior today is when a student violates a code of political correctness, such when a little boy doodles a gun on a piece of paper, gives a willing six-year-old girl a peck on the cheek or politely holds open a school door for an adult.  As far as real transgressions go, however, it’s see, hear and speak no evil; keep your head down; and punch the time clock.
And all you have to do is ask Casey.  A nice, extremely articulate boy, as this interview shows, he had been bullied virtually every day for many years now.  And where were the “adults”?  Perhaps they didn’t know — and for sure they didn’t act.  Either way, they were incompetent and guilty of a grave sin of omission.  And the kicker is that, after failing to secure a safe environment for their students, these educators turn around and tell the kids that they also may not save themselves.  They’ll say that “violence is never the answer” and then punish the victim the same as the victimizer.  But would they want to be subject to the same standard?  If they’re assaulted on the street, perhaps they should go to prison for as long as the assailant.  I mean, it takes two to tango, right?
And understand that this is the gun-control mentality, the mind-set that disempowers the people.  It’s much as during Hurricane Katrina.  Like declawing a cat and then throwing him to the wolves, the New Orleans police confiscated weapons from law-abiding citizens while doing nothing about the roving gangs that would prey upon those citizens (hey, gangs might actually shoot back).
As for law enforcement, while I generally defend cops, they’re much the same as school administrators.  They make the same politically correct statements, such as saying they’re “concerned” about the support for Casey’s actions or responding to an obvious anti-white “hate crime” by claiming that they’re unsure of the motive.  They will tell citizens not to take matters into their own hands and instead call the proper authorities, yet, when people do the latter, they find that they sometimes end up like the gun-doodling little boy.  (There recently was a New Jersey case in which a social worker called the police because she was worried that her son might be suicidal, and the man ended up being arrested and going to prison for possession of legally obtained firearms.)
So we’re not supposed to take the law into our own hands even though, increasingly, the law isn’t handling things.  Students have to deal with do-nothing teachers and citizens with do-the-wrong-thing cops, and we’re supposed to lay down our fists and arms and have confidence in the powers-that-be?
And this brings me back to violence never solving anything.  If the Dalgleishes of the world really believed this, they would dissolve the military and trade the police for social workers.  But it’s not surprising that people famous for situational values (i.e., liberals) would also subscribe to situational pacifism.  If a criminal resists arrest, they will expect the cops to use violence to apprehend him; moreover, they will actually relish it, I’m sure, if some miscreant is imperiling them.  And this is fine.  But here is what isn’t fine: saying that what is often valid for people inside government is never valid for people outside government.  Their real message is that violence is never the answer — for the subjects.  It’s just peachy for the state, though.
And this way lies tyranny.  There is a balance to things, and as citizen courage wanes government power inevitably waxes.  G.K. Chesterton spoke of this phenomenon, writing, “[T]he Pretorian guard became more and more important in Rome as Rome became more and more luxurious and feeble.  The military man gains the civil power in proportion as the civilian loses the military virtues.”  And when pondering this, I think of the parents who called the police to deal with an unruly prepubescent child.  Like so many today, perhaps spanking was anathema to them as “violence is never the answer.”  But it was the answer.  All their weakness did is ensure that the government would become the agent of it.
The reality is that, like amputation and many other unpleasant things, physical force has its place.  After all, violence is not the best way to settle differences.  Sometimes, however, it is the only way to prevent them from being settled for you.

Preparing for War in Australia?

From American Thinker.Com

March 01, 2011

Preparing for War in Australia?

By Randall Hoven

Am I the only person with a major Win-The-Future reaction to something Robert Gates said on Friday?  He said this to West Point cadets:

“… any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it.”
This did not come from Ron Paul; this came from our current U.S. Secretary of Defense, first chosen by President Bush and then retained by President Obama.
I don’t know where to begin.  First, wasn’t he the guy who approved and orchestrated increasing US troops in Afghanistan from 30,000 to 100,000?  That constitutes “a big American land army,” doesn’t it?  And Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld just in time to oversee the troop “surge” in Iraq.  That would mean Robert Gates is saying his own head should be examined.  Or maybe he gives himself the Obama-exception: he inherited those messes.
(By the way, was Rumsfeld right, or wrong, for the “light footprint” approach?)
These are the seven continents:  North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and Antarctica.  The US has only ever sent “a big American land army” to three of those continents:  Europe, Asia and (north) Africa.  Robert Gates just ruled out two of those three.
I guess a ground war in Sweden, Canada or Australia would be OK with Secretary Gates.  But Muammar Gaddafi, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il can all rest easy.  We might drop some bombs or send some fear-inducing cruise missiles, but we won’t send troops.  I guess it is also time to start bringing home the 28,500 troops we have in South Korea and the 35,000 we have in Japan.
We’ve just set aside half the land area of the planet as a sanctuary for the Axis of Evil and anyone who wants to join it.
I have been a supporter of defense spending, at least to keep it in the neighborhood of 4% of Gross Domestic Product.  But now I’m inches away from becoming a Ron Paul supporter.
Why spend over $700 billion per year on the Department of Defense when (a) we rule out wars on the very continents where most of our enemies are, and (b) we invented a whole separate organization, the Department of Homeland Security, when we got worried about attacks on our own soil.
What is the Defense Department for?  Rapid response to threats from Australia?
In effect, we own a million dollar car that we keep in the garage.  When we found we actually needed to get some place, we bought a second car.
Here is a tally of the wars we have been in since the Declaration of Independence.
War
Declared?
US military fatalities
Outcome
Revolutionary
N/A
4,435
Win
War of 1812
Yes
2,260
Win
Mexican War
Yes
13,283
Win
Civil War
N/A
364,511 (Union)
Win for Union
Spanish-American
Yes
2,446
Win
World War I
Yes
116,516
Win
World War II
Yes
405,399
Win
Korean
No
36,574
Stalemate
Vietnam
No
58,220
Loss
Persian Gulf 1991
No
224
Win?
Afghanistan
No
TBD
Iraq
No
TBD
Maybe Secretary Gates has a point.  After all, we’ve won every war fought on the American continents.  We also won every war fought in Europe.  Asia has been bad for us; the only war we won in Asia was against Japan, in which we had to resort to dropping atomic bombs.  (Is that what Secretary Gates is getting at — to just drop nukes instead of sending in large ground forces?  Somehow, I don’t think that was his point.)
But I think I’ve found a more obvious pattern: we only win wars we declare.
What we have been doing since World War II is solving our war problems just like we do all our other problems: pretend spending on a problem is the same as solving it.
I don’t really know how to fight a war, but just looking at our track record I think the pattern for the US winning involves these basic steps:
  • Declare war. (This bit of trivia is in the US Constitution.)
  • Send in “a big American land army.”
  • Expect that many thousands of US troops will die in the effort.
  • Drop atomic bombs if you have to.
We have won every war in which we followed those steps.  We lost or stalemated every war against foreigners in which we didn’t (unless you consider Persian Gulf I a “win”).
Secretary Gates has effectively ruled out following these steps, at least on continents in which most of our enemies reside.  One could logically conclude, then, that by following the Secretary’s advice the US will not win another war.
I suppose that’s OK.  After all, war is bad.  Use diplomacy, not war.  And if that doesn’t work, use tough diplomacy.  And if that fails, we have the Department of Homeland Security just in case the bad guys actually make it to our shores.  Boy, will those guys be scared when they see how well our first-responders have been funded.
Randall Hoven can be contacted at randall.hoven@gmail.com or via his web site, randallhoven.com.

Rental Car ‘Big Brother’ is Watching You Down Under

From Jaunted.Com

Renting a car on vacation is awesome. You get to drive it like an idiot, accelerate over speed bumps, and constantly remind yourself that “it’s just a rental” as pieces fly off as you make your way down the highway. Not—these are all examples of how NOT to treat your rental, of course.

The fun might be coming to an end—well at least in Australia—as a new type of in-car GPS does a little bit more than help you locate the nearest Starbucks or McDonald’s. This rental car GPS keeps an eye out on your driving habits as well as your location. That means the rental car company knows when you take its car somewhere it’s not supposed to be, or that the flat tire you claim happened overnight was actually caused by taking the Toyota Camry on an unpaved road.

DriveMyCar Rentals is installing the new tracking devices in about 30 percent of their vehicles, as they just want to keep their cars safe and sound. If you’re caught taking your car off the beaten bath you’ll receive a text message to remind you that you’re in violation of your rental agreement—what a downer. The rental car company is more like a peer-to-peer option, so it’s kind of to protect owners’ cars who are loaning them out to other drivers. We guess we’d want to know where our car was as well if we were to sign up for something like this.

Understandably an Australian civil liberties group isn’t too thrilled about the Big Brother tracking device, especially since they’re concerned about the company storing your travel habits. DriveMyCar Rentals insists that everything is real time, so they don’t keep a running tally or record of where you’ve been. Still, no matter the type of company or the level of safety, we’re not totally cool with anyone following us around during our vacation.

– Prophecy News Watch

Muslim cleric calls for beheading of Dutch politician

From News Yahoo.Com

A well-known Australian Muslim cleric has called for the beheading of Dutch anti-Islamic politician Geert Wilders, a newspaper said on Friday.

Wilders’ Freedom Party scored the biggest gains in June 9 polls and is currently negotiating to form a new minority government with the Liberals and Christian Democrats. Polls show Wilders would win a new election if one were called now.

Wilders demanded to know why he had learnt about the threat from the newspaper and not from Dutch authorities who are guarding him after a film and remarks he made angered Muslims around the world.

De Telegraaf, the Netherlands’ largest newspaper, led its front page on Friday with a story on the speech by Feiz Muhammad.

The Sydney-born Muhammad has gained notoriety for, among other things, calling on young children to be radicalized and blaming rape victims for their own attacks.

The paper posted an English-language audio clip in which he refers to Wilders as “this Satan, this devil, this politician in Holland” and explains that anyone who talks about Islam like Wilders does should be executed by beheading.

De Telegraaf did not say when the speech was given but said it and the Dutch secret service both had copies. According to his website, Muhammad is based in Malaysia.

Wilders told Reuters it was “really terrible news” and that he was taking it seriously.

“I will ask for clarification from the Dutch minister of interior/justice why the secret service and anti-terrorism unit NCTb have not informed me before and what the consequences will be for me,” he said in an email.

A spokesman for the Dutch secret service referred inquiries on the threat to the NCTb. A spokeswoman for the NCTb was not available to comment.

Wilders is currently on trial in the Netherlands for inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

The Freedom Party leader made a film in 2008 which accused the Koran of inciting violence and mixed images of terrorist attacks with quotations from the Islamic holy book.

Wilders was also charged because of outspoken remarks in the media, such as an opinion piece in a Dutch daily in which he compared Islam to fascism and the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.”

Of late he has been in the news for plans to speak out against a planned mosque in New York City on September 11, the ninth anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

But his views have also made him extremely popular with a segment of the country uneasy about the Netherlands’ commitment to multiculturalism.

– Prophecy News Watch

Your smartphone is watching you

From SMH.Com.Au

Australian security experts, consumer advocates and privacy campaigners have sounded the alarm over the hundreds of thousands of free smartphone applications that spy on their users.

Lookout, a smartphone security firm based in San Francisco, scanned nearly 300,000 free applications for Apple’s iPhone and phones built around Google’s Android software. It found that many of them secretly pull sensitive data off users’ phones and ship them off to third parties without notification.

That’s a major concern that has been bubbling up in privacy and security circles.

The data can include full details about users’ contacts, their pictures, text messages and internet and search histories. The third parties can include advertisers and companies that analyse data on users.

The information is used by companies to target ads and learn more about their users. The danger, though, is that the data can become vulnerable to hacking and used in identity theft if the third party isn’t careful about securing the information.

Lookout found that nearly a quarter of the iPhone apps and almost half the Android apps contained software code that contained those capabilities.

The code had been written by the third parties and inserted into the applications by the developers, usually for a specific purpose, such as allowing the applications to run ads. But the code winds up forcing the application to collect more data on users than even the developers may realise, Lookout executives said.

“We found that, not only users, but developers as well, don’t know what’s happening in their apps, even in their own apps, which is fascinating,” said John Hering, chief executive of Lookout.

Part of the problem is that smartphones don’t alert users to all the different types of data the applications running on them are collecting. iPhones only alert users when applications want to use their locations.

And, while Android phones offer robust warnings when applications are first installed, many people breeze through the warnings for the gratification of using the apps quickly.

Australian online users’ lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia spokesman Colin Jacobs said the issue of applications spying on their users “was something that everybody needs to be aware of”.

Jacobs said that many did not think of their phone as a computer.

“Mobiles contain as much personal information as people’s everyday computers do,” he said.

“Ironically, Apple’s model of a very locked down app store which has caused a lot of controversy may provide more protection to users because each application is so carefully reviewed, but it has its downsides as well.”

Intelligent Business Research Services analyst Joe Sweeney said that many users had installed firewalls on their PCs, but weren’t doing so on their mobiles.

In many cases this is because they can’t. Apple, for example, doesn’t offer a firewall product on its iPhone.

“If the numbers in this report are correct, then obviously this is an issue,” Sweeney said.

“We may need to see firewall-type software on phones.”

However, he said that education of users had to come first.

“There are other ways of addressing this issue that doesn’t require a firewall.”

Sweeney said network providers, such as Telstra and Optus, could help out. Apple could as well, he said.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn questioned whether some of the apps using the code broke Australian privacy laws.

“One would ask whether it is a possible breach of some of our privacy laws,” Zinn said.

He said that, although Apple and some of the apps might stipulate in their contracts that they collect data and send it to third parties, “How many of us actually read the contracts and the small print that come with them?

“We know that people don’t read them. You just press OK,” he said.

“We know that, especially with Apple contracts – they’re so long – nobody reads them; you probably need a law degree to understand them.”

Zinn said that if something as significant as some of the data that was revealed in the report was being sent to a third party, it “shouldn’t be in small print”.

It should be something that a user has to consent to and be in “big print”, Zinn said.

Apple and Google did not respond to requests from the Associated Press for comment on Lookout’s research.

– Prophecy News Watch