Australia outlaws warrant canaries




Stealing an idea from Ars’s comment thread and running with it: I wonder if you could get away with releasing a statement that “due to recent laws, we can neither confirm nor deny whether a secret request has been received for [specific bit of information]”

Probably not easily, but it could make a really interesting court case.

On a similar note, you might be able to effectively protest the law by getting large enough groups together to simultaneously state that they haven’t received any such requests.


Let’s see how long this lasts! I don’t imagine most Australians will find it very compelling.


Can you un-ring a bell through legislation?

Perhaps the logical response to a law making you pretend there isn’t an investigation is to just play it to its logical conclusion and ignore all government requests pertaining to the investigation that you can’t acknowledge or deny is happening.


Exactly! This would be an appropriate response.


So all Australians are responsible for covering for spies. Even if you haven’t been subject to a warrant, you have to pretend like maybe you were and maybe you weren’t. Because it would be a crime to say either way.

This raises the question: when you lie to cover for the spies, how convincing are you legally required to be? Could you be held liable for being a shitty liar?


Australia appears to be making good progress toward the good old days of being a nation of convicts; albeit domestic rather than imported this time around…


So how does one not disclose either the existence or none-existence of the warrants. Do they exist in some kind of Shroedinger’s Cat state.

Can’t wait for this to be tested in court.


Australia is one of the Five Eyes.

The Five Eyes alliance is sort of an artifact of the post World War II era where the Anglophone countries are the major powers banded together to sort of co-operate and share the costs of intelligence gathering infrastructure…The result of this was over decades and decades some sort of a supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.
—Edward Snowden


Perhaps Kurt Gödel could be of assistance.

“We can’t post a Warrant Canary, but we can post a statement telling you that we can’t post a Warrant Canary…”

and if that’s banned…

“We can’t post a statement telling you that we can’t post a Warrant Canary, but we can post a statement telling you that the can’t post a statement telling you that we can’t post a Warrant Canary”…

and so it goes…an infinite regression of statements about statements…


Small bright side - there is a growing movement in Australia towards the use of VPNs and the like, which will largely render this rubbish law redundant (and the accompanying anti-piracy laws coming through now).

A shout out to the Australian Labor Party though, for being so spineless that they’d pass this dreck unopposed. The current government may be in a death spiral, but this shit is the kind of thing people will remember when the election rolls around next year.


Barf, not only does it make canaries illegal, it makes confirming or denying the presence of a warrant illegal.

absolutely banal


I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

So, suppose people began to post statements to the effect, “We can neither confirm nor deny…” This is in obedience to the exact letter of the law. If you then removed the statement, with no comment what the removal signified, could they bust you for failing to neither confirm nor deny?

What if people began to adopt an X of black duct tape? Would removing that be a crime? What an entertainingly slippery slope!


I think they’re within the red tape as long as they don’t post statements reading, “We can confirm or deny…”. Removal of a statement doesn’t immediately nullify or reverse the statement.


“If you thought there was, there is a nearly overwhelming chance that you wouldn’t be wrong. But in either case, we can’t definitively say.”


I haven’t received any warrants (or canaries) from Australia, but admitting it might make me a felon if I visit there again.


It strikes me that one way around this onerous law is to anchor a very large vessel permanently over 12 nautical miles away from the coast of Australia and establish companies on the vessel that provide services such as ISPs - which would probably require both a satellite connection and a undersea cable connection from the vessel to land (however far enough so that where the vessel is in international waters and not in Australia’s control).
This is actually in the process of being done by a group of investors known as Blueseed who are working on just such a thing which would be off the coast of San Francisco, California due to that there are numerous businesses that would rather be offshore (in this case, really offshore, in the ocean) than be subject to the regulations that would apply were they located and residing on land.)
This may be complicated by the following:
“The Territorial Sea is a belt of water not exceeding 12M in width measured from the territorial sea baseline. Australia’s sovereignty extends to the territorial sea, its seabed and
subsoil, and to the air space above it. This sovereignty is exercised in
accordance with international law as reflected in the Convention. The
major limitation on Australia’s exercise of sovereignty in the
territorial sea is the right of innocent passage for foreign ships. The
territorial sea around certain islands in the Torres Strait is 3M.
Within the Contiguous Zone (24 nautical mile limit) Australia may exercise control necessary to prevent and punish infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and
(quoted from Maritime Boundary Definitions at
Additionally, such a venture would likely require that people doing it raise a tremendous amount of capital, and businesses (ISPs) who would locate on the vessel would have to have people willing to become residents of the giant vessel (and remaining over 12 nautical miles away from shore) in order to avoid being subject to Australia’s onerous laws of the land again. Not impossible, just very difficult. Australia’s government is essentially screaming out loud to the entire tech sector, “Get out of the country, you’re not wanted here! We want this place to go back to the stone age! No innovators welcome!” Ditto for the Russian Federation, California, New York, and the UK.


Offshore base. Looks like a job for a secondhand aircraft carrier. These things are big enough for most such uses, true floating cities.

A big liner or a cruise ship could be also rebuilt. But a carrier, especially if nuclear-powered (and double so if armed and with a fleet of support ships), would be much much cooler.

A no-holds-barred place for geeks and researchers (and any customers who can afford a ferry from the land plus whatever they want), whether it is about crypto, computer vulnerabilities, dual-use electronics, pharmaceuticals, or genetics and biomed (here could be the main profit engine of the venture to keep it financially afloat, even if it’d be just life extension and designer babies), could be quite an interesting place to live in.

A conventional oil-powered fleet, with a support fleet of (semi)self-replicating pontoons for gene modded algae to provide biofuel, could be easier to obtain than a nuclear carrier, though.


I’m considering making the most out of it by reselling routers pre-configured to common vpn services, with a little web interface to select the protocols/sites they’d like routed each way. Downside: I’d have to figure out how to do it on openWRT since edgemax hardware doesn’t quite fit the usecase.

When life gives you lemons, etc.


Welcome to my little home-away-from-home, Mr. Bond.