For quite some time now many in the scanning hobby have also had an interest in decoding pager messages. This activity has been happening for many years; however it was usually kept amongst the like-minded communication hobbyists.
In recent years with the creation of an abundance of internet forums to share advice and tips on how to go about this activity, and with advances in software permitting even the most novice hobbyist the ability to decode pager messages we’ve seen more people take up the practice. With that has come those who host websites showing in real-time the end result of the decoding, primarily those pager messages pertaining to emergency service related jobs and incidents.
Add to that the public’s thirst for not only knowledge but that little bit more ‘inside info’ and in some cases the need to be the first to make that info more widely known.
It is in part that end result that has drawn the attention of the Department of Justice (DoJ) in Victoria, Australia towards some such websites and with it threats of legal action ordering the shutting down of web pages carrying content from decoded pager messages.
In Victoria an internet forum and website was started several years ago and was largely populated by members of the Country Fire Authority, State Emergency Service and with a smattering of employees and volunteers from other Emergency Service Organisations. It initially commenced its life showing the end result of decoded pager messages relating to its members emergency related activities, it also had a forums section for discussion and sharing of information of that ESO’s activities.
This eventually resulted in the Country Fire Authority and the Department of Justice contacting the websites owners, who was at that point involved with the CFA; in essence the message was quite simple, ‘Stop the practice as its illegal’.
Now I will just point out here and now I don’t intend on discussing or debating the legalities of the practice, that is a whole other argument and frankly as big as the internet is I think we could soon chew up megabyte after megabyte as we debated each and all’s perception and interpretation of law and regulations.
To date there are at least 4 sites that I am aware of that once their existence became more widely known that have now had either an untimely demise or totally altered their core function of existence.
Some in our hobby have been their own worst enemy. That being that even though they have known that it is highly likely that the DoJ would pursue such sites operators they have still made it widely known on various forums they operate such sites. More amusing is some responses and aspects of ‘surprise’ when finally forced to close their sites.
Another amusing aspect is that due to some people’s desires to receive accolades and pats on the back for having access to such information or the ability to share it they decide to continuously share their ‘secret’ URL’s with those they ‘trust’. Now let’s be frank here, most of those people that they’re trusting are no more than mere online acquaintances who they really do not know. Some of these acquaintances then end up sharing the URL’s with third, fourth and fifth parties and then before you know it, you guessed it, emails from DoJ with a cease and desist.
Then come the cries of those challenging the DoJ on the legalities and beating their chests whilst they profess their knowledge of law and relevant acts and how DoJ has it totally wrong. Yet not one of those chest beaters to this date has followed through with their threats of challenging such instructions and orders and quietly shutdown their sites.
They do of course simply move their operations to other URL’s. Before long they again ‘trust’ someone they don’t really know or their desire to receive those accolades and back slaps I mentioned earlier becomes strong again and the whole process repeats.
My advice is to simply shut-up about the subject on such forums likely to be frequented by ESO’s or bureaucrats from these entities. Go about your activities quietly. There has already been an employee from one ESO who once made aware of such a site we’re discussing via talkback radio had that site shutdown. Mind you this individual still sees it fit to frequent other forums where such messages are posted as a topic of conversation. Go figure!
Eventually if people don’t start curbing the amount of information they put out in public realms on these forums, including addresses, names and contact details Government bodies will eventually be forced to act and look more closely at encrypted messages on future system upgrades, thus killing the hobby completely and it will be our own fault.