Who is the mysterious filtering software provider?

In our last post we brought to attention the strange case of one of our project websites openaustralia.org being blocked from access by employees of the department of Customs. To our surprise this was then picked up by Fairfax media and even raised by Mia Garlick, Assistant Secretary, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy at a recent Government 2.0 conference in Canberra.

A few people believe this to be a storm in a teacup. For example, one commentor, JP, said

Oh, grow up. It’s not bizarre, it’s routine. So is the solution: short-term, request that Customs whitelist the site; long-term, request that their filtering provider reclassify it.

So, here’s what happened next. October 30 I sent this:

Date: Sat, 30 Oct 2010 11:18:38 +1100
Subject: Re: FW: RE: Query about Customs access to openaustralia.org
[SEC=UNCLASSIFIED] [T20101020000LS040Z80472]
From: Matthew Landauer
To: information@customs.gov.au

Hello [redacted],

Thanks very much for your response and the response of the IT security
section.

I would like to clarify a point. The website www.openaustralia.org is
absolutely not a blog. The website republishes the Federal Hansard, the
Federal proceedings of Parliament, which definitely doesn’t fall under the
definition of a blog as was presented in the forwarded message from the IT
security section.

I understand from your email that the classification of
www.openaustralia.org as a blog was undertaken by a third party who provides
your internet filtering technology.

Could you please let me know who provides this third party internet
filtering so that I could contact them and address this error of
classification with them directly as it undoubtedly affects not just your
department but other organisations who use the same internet filtering
technology.

All the best,
Matthew Landauer

After most of the week goes by without a reply or any kind of acknowledgment I send another quick email

Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2010 13:22:35 +1100
Subject: Fwd: FW: RE: Query about Customs access to openaustralia.org
[SEC=UNCLASSIFIED] [T20101020000LS040Z80472]
From: Matthew Landauer
To: information@customs.gov.au

Hello [redacted],

Could you please let me know an ETA for when I might expect a reply to my
previous email.

Thank you.

All the best,
Matthew Landauer

Then

Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2010 07:55:45 +1100 (EST)
To: Matthew Landauer
Subject: RE: Fwd: FW: RE: Query about Customs access to openaustralia.org [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED] [T20101020000LS010Z84292]
From: information@customs.gov.au

Matthew

The response to your original email is the only one I have seen. The decision would lay with our IT Security Section and Customs Management to determine the applicability of access to web sites external to the Customs website.

I never saw your email dated October 30 and cannot see what happened with that email.

I will again forward your email to our IT Security section for their consideration and possible response.

I cannot provide a time frame for a response or any further details.

Regards

[redacted]

I thanked him for his email and said that I was looking forward to the response from the IT security section.

Then, silence.

Monday last week I sent a follow up reminder email asking for any updates. Silence again.

I would like to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible. Until it’s resolved, employees of this government department do not have access to a very useful tool for keeping abreast of developments in Federal parliament.

We’re currently at step one. It’s been nearly a month trying to find out who provides the departments’ internet filtering software.

As an outsider trying to help resolve this situation, it is extremely difficult. If there are issues with giving this information out, then nobody has said that.

You would think this would be a simple matter to resolve.

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