What You Need to Know About the Introduction of the New Data Retention Laws

data privacy protection

As from October 13, 2015 the new data retention laws began. This means that every email you write, every text message you send, and every phone call you make will be under surveillance by the government with respect to the new data retention laws. The government claims that the surveillance scheme is in place to safeguard the country against terrorism and organized crime.

However, the underlying truth is that the scheme is a main assault of privacy. According to an essential poll, 44% of Australians were against the introduction of the metadata laws; while 40% were in support and the rest had no idea of the laws. Based on the percentages, it is clear that the majority are not in favor of the laws.

How Did We Get to Where We Are Now?

The roots of the metadata laws originate from Julia Gillard (Labour Government) idea in 2012. The liberal Government of Tony Abbott introduced the laws into parliament. A similar proposal was tabled on a parliamentary committee by Nicola Roxon, who was the Attorney-General at the time. Ms. Roxon claimed that the suggested reform is necessary to enable investigations into organized crime and terrorism to continue even with the new technologies in place.

In addition, the AG at the time claimed that the loss of the surveillance ability would definitely be a setback to the Australian National Security and the law enforcement agencies. The proposal did not go unnoticed; Scott Ludlam (Greens Senator) strongly protested the proposal, claiming that it was more of the expansion of government surveillance power. Stern statements against the proposal were also presented by the opposition spokesperson for communications, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The most interesting thing is that the same Mr. Turnbull was approached to help develop the full scheme a couple of years later; when the scheme was reintroduced by the AG George Brandis and Tony Abbott. The government insisted that the scheme was chiefly designed to protect Australia against terrorism. In actual fact, the government claimed that they are responding to the upsurge of local attacks and Australian jihadists overseas.

The Vague Definition of What Data Will Be Collected

There is no definitive definition of what data will be collected by the surveillance scheme, and what does this mean for the Australians. In truth, George Brandis himself tussles to explain what metadata laws are. Regardless of the vague definition, the fact is that the metadata of Australians will be in possession of the mobile service providers for two years. Metadata is simply data about data. Basically, what you were doing online. It can be the duration of a phone call you made or your browsing history. The entities that get access to your data include: anti-corruption commissions, major crimes, state & territory police forces, and commonwealth; border protection service and the Australian customs; and other law enforcement agencies.

Data to Be Captured

  • Name, address and billing data
  • IP address, email address, and telephone number
  • Download and upload volumes
  • Date, time & duration of communication
  • The source along with the destination of a communication
  • Type of service in use, such as social media and SMS
  • Location of the device in use, such as a telecommunications device.

If you view the laws from a vague point of view, you will not be able to clearly comprehend the impact the laws have on your life. The scheme gets full knowledge of the time you spent calling a specific number. Even though those behind the surveillance cannot hear what you are talking about, they can most definitely create possible scenarios. Cost is another issue of interest. The Australian Government will be paying $131 million to set up from the taxpayers’ wallets. However, the telcos are left with the burden once the initial set up is through. In turn, the consumers end up with the heaviest burden.

Is The Introduction of Metadata Laws A Good Idea?

From the government’s side, the introduction of metadata laws is not just a good idea, but an excellent one. However, the majority of Australians believe that the scheme is more of an invasion of privacy than safeguarding the country against terrorism and organized crime. The scheme was branded honey pot of hackers by Telstra. Tony Abbott, the former prime minister defended the scheme in the name of national security. He conveniently said that the scheme is simply a tool through which the government receives the necessary information it need to safeguard the country against organized crimes and terrorism.

According to an American Informer, metadata laws would not help the government achieve what it claims it can achieve. According to the informer, data retention laws are not public safety plug-ins, instead they are eavesdropping programs. The informer also urged Australians to ask themselves if their collective rights are worth a small advantage in their ability to spy. There were also claims by a police insider who stated that Australians are somnambulated into a system that the AG cannot comprehend.

Who Will Have Access To My Data?

This is the question most Australians ask themselves as far as the introduction of the metadata laws in Australia is concerned. The entities that will have access to your data include: ASIO, Australian Federal Police, local police station, and other law enforcement & security agencies. According to the police insider, the metadata will be accessed under the following scenarios: an investigation of crime that can lead to a jail time of not less than two years; safeguarding of government income; and if a person’s life is in danger. There is also a Commonwealth commissioner who overseas metadata after a request.

How to Get Around Metadata Laws

The most stress-free way of dodging surveillance is through over-the-top communication services, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime or Apple’s iMessage. If you still feel you are insecure and you need to do something about. You are urged to sign up for anonymous VPN. This is state-of-the-art virtual private network that will mask your identity; allowing you to connect securely to the internet without worrying about your privacy or security being breached by the new data retention laws.

A Complete gamer and a Tech Geek. Brings out all her thoughts and love in writing blogs on IOT, software, technology etc