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ACS Week in Review: 21 March 2014

Friday, 21 Mar 2014

iiNet Chief Malone quits

iiNet founder and chief executive Michael Malone has today resigned from his position, following a three-month sabbatical from the company.

Malone announced in November he would take up to six months off from the internet service provider, but at the time promised to return to oversee a ten-year growth plan.

Malone today said during his break it had become clear to him he wanted to move away from 20 years of providing 24x7 commitment, energy and enthusiam to iiNet.

"It's never an easy time to say goodbye, but this is an ideal time to leave," he told shareholders. "iiNet is in the best financial shape it has ever been and has a strong growth plan for future success."

He said during a conference call he'd had an amazing 20 years, but after the three-month break did not see himself returning to a full-time role as CEO. He said he had no concrete plans for his next role, but expected to continue holidays for the next couple of weeks.

It's time that 'metadata' met an end

"I think the journalism profession should push back on the use of the term 'metadata' by surveillance agencies. It's data. It's private," tweeted high-profile network engineer Mark Newton last Friday. Those who use the term are maintaining a fiction, he added; namely, the notion that some kinds of data about an individual's communication and online activities are less deserving than others, and don't need to be protected from unwarranted prying by police and spooks by the requirement for, erm, a warrant.

Newton is right. So here's my contribution to that push-back.

The word "metadata" is supposed to refer to any data associated with a communication, other than the "content" of the communication itself. This distinction is intended to parallel the distinction made with telephone calls, where police need a warrant to access the conversation itself through a "lawful intercept" (or, as Americans call it, a "wiretap"), but not to access any information about the call that was recorded by the telco — such as the time the call was made, its duration, and the number called.

That distinction is down an accident of technological history. Listening to a telephone call requires an intrusive act in real time, and it has to be organised in advance or the conversation is lost. The other information was being recorded for billing purposes, and kept long enough to resolve any customer billing disputes. Providing that information to the police was seen as no big deal.

Things are different on the internet. Email, for example, continues to exist even after it's been sent. The same goes for chat logs and file transfers. Routing information exists within the communication itself — think of email headers. And while many activities are logged, those logs are kept to investigate technical faults, not for billing — so they can be thrown out much sooner.

We can help you, Malcolm Turnbull tells Australian startups

Less red tape, friendly taxation and better representation are among the things government can do to help start-ups, says Malcolm Turnbull in reply to Australian entrepreneurs.

There has been some heated debate about Australia's ability to create an ecosystem that will foster the next generation of start-ups in Australia.

Nitro chief executive Sam Chandler argued in the Sydney Morning Herald that there isn't enough scale in Series A capital-raising in Australia, leading to a brain-drain to other markets, particularly Silicon Valley.

BlueChilli CEO Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin hit back, arguing that in the past five years there has been a huge development in local incubators and accelerators – his own incubator is soon to close out a $10 million venture capital fund, with many similar funds now up and running in Australia.

But, as I'm sure Seb and Sam would both acknowledge, the issue is actually much larger than merely shouting "show me the money".

ACS welcomes overhaul of Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration

Sydney, March 20, 2014: The Australian Computer Society has welcomed an announcement by Senator Michaelia Cash that the Ministerial Advisory Council on Skilled Migration (MACSM) will be subject to a wide-ranging review.

ACS Chief Executive Alan Patterson identified the opportunities that such a review can bring.

“We were disappointed that, in the lead up to last year’s federal election, the ICT industry was unfairly targeted in an ill-informed debate around skilled migration. It is worth noting that no member of the MACSM came from the ICT industry or had an ICT background.”

“ICT employs more than 500,000 people in Australia, and is the critical growth sector in the face of the slow-down in our resources sector and the challenges faced by manufacturing. The industry is now contributing almost 10% of GDP and is our brightest opportunity for securing economic growth.”