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    « The upward thrusting pistons of Slater & Gordon | Main | The dog ate the homework »
    Tuesday
    Mar102015

    Pro Rata Data Retention

    Beware: automatic recording of law lectures ... Sounds travel, particularly private ones ... Barely Legal gets tangled with the Canberra press reptiles on spill day ... Law making more fun in the parliamentary cauldron than in the courtroom 

    Pic: Shutterstock

    THE legal profession's esteemed first legal mind, attorney general George Brandis "QC", continues to spruik the mass surveillance of Australians to further protect their freedoms. 

    At the same time the ANU is introducing a data retention regime that would make Orwell blush. 

    Lecture recording has been the norm across universities for a while. Law students no longer have the time, as our predecessors did, to sit in a lecture theatre for two hours "engaging" with an academic, when we could instead sit at a computer and listen to the same lecture at double speed, allowing a time saving of 45 minutes. 

    However, the recent introduction of Echo360, a creepily self described "active learning" recording software, has law students and lecturers whispering discontent. 

    The software automatically records everything that is said in a lecture theatre. It begins recording at five minutes to the hour and tapes for the length of the scheduled lecture. No human activation is required. 

    This results in the recording of private discussions during pre-lecture and mid-lecture breaks, particularly of those nearby the microphone - e.g. lecturers. 

    The potential for the program to record confidential discussions about students' hardship consideration is very real. 

    The answer? Lecturers have all begun their semesters with a blunt public declaration to their class, which is reproduced in alarm-red Calibri at all doors and on lecterns: 

    "Room audio and screen presentations may be automatically recorded at any time in this venue." 

    I'm no expert on the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, but I've been assured all students have automatically given consent. Fully informed, apparently.  

    Lecturers must now step out of their own lecture theatres to have one-on-one discussions with students, for fear of being remotely recorded. 

    It wouldn't be a law degree without disclaimers. 

    Thrills & Spills

    Ruddock: insufficiently enthusiastic

    Early last month Barely Legal was shoulder to shoulder with Canberra's journalistic vanguard, roped into a corner of a parliamentary corridor. 

    This is because it was spill-day and, part-time, I'm a lowly sub-editor in the press gallery. 

    Like a pack of caged chooks waiting for pellets, we extended our necks up and duked them down to try and get a glimpse of the PM and key Team members as they strode into the party room - Abbott walking like a cowboy with chewing gum on his boots. 

    Time passed eerily as the party pondered whether to spill the PM in favour of an empty chair. The atmosphere was reminiscent of half-time breaks at gladiatorial sporting events. 

    Then action ... Philip Ruddock hobbled out and made his announcement (apparently without the requisite enthusiasm) that the fun was over and that the empty chair had lost. 

    The press gallery regards events such as this as a sport. Even a tiny cog like Barely Legal found the lust for political blood infectious. 

    To work in the gallery, while at the same time studying law at the ANU, gives a unique insight into how statutes are born. 

    The anachronisms of policy debate; the sneaky amendments added late on Thursday evenings before a rise; ministerial obfuscations - all are observable on the legislative frontline. 

    Perhaps it's why the common law is so quickly being subsumed by statute. The creation of laws in the cauldron of Canberra is just so damn fun compared to a dusty courtroom. 

    Maybe a career in media is for me? Or perhaps cage fighting? I'll speak to the college career's department. 

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