The End of Privacy? Data Retention in Australia

As of Wednesday October 14 2015, Australia will be subject to data retention laws. Every platform we use as communication will now be monitored by government agencies. It is our metadata that these agencies are targeting, which (over the two year period that it is required to be retained for by our service providers) will expose the patterns of our communication: “…private email, SMS and fixed-line caller traffic, consumer, work and professional activities and habits, …commercial transactions and monetised subscriptions or downloads, [and] exactly who you communicate with, and how often.” Whilst it is not necessarily the content of our communications that will be monitored, it is what we have done.

The severity of the legislation is evident in the two year jail sentence punishable for those who are caught revealing information about instances of metadata access. But why is it that Australians are now subject to what other Western countries have rejected as being unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy?

Arguably, there are two reasons for metadata collection – neither of which the Federal Government has been transparent about. The first as a regime of national security in the war on terrorism, and the second as a method of putting an end to copyright infringement and piracy.

There are ways to circumvent data retention, however, that are completely legal as Scott Ludlam writes:

  1. Choose strong passwords and do not use the same password for every account you access;
  2. Rather than texting in its natural sense, use a data encrypting service which will not leave a trace with certain service providers;
  3. Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which ‘scrambles’ the information of your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or issues the status of ‘not set’, wherein the metadata cannot be pinpointed to account for who, where, or when something was communicated online;
  4.  Use Tor Softwear which masks your web browsing; and
  5. Keep informed.

Remix Projection and Presentation

The method in which we – as (novice) remix artists – project and present our work is important to how an audience perceives, enjoys and communicates with the remixed art. The experiences artwork can offer are significant. 

Ryoji Ikeda’s Datamatics (2005) is one example of an outstanding audience experience – one that is not confined to the basis of social media websites. Datamatics is Ikeda’s experiment in materialising pure data, that is transforming the intangible data that pervades technology into artworks that are perceptible to the senses audiovisual concerts, installations, publications and CD releases. Focusing, however, on Ikeda’s experiment of installations, the designed atmospheres of light imagery that embodied a relationship, connection, and pairing with sounds, brought to life the concept of foley. The matching of what is seen to what is heard is important to the narrative of an artwork. Ideka created a world that wasn’t restricted by a screen. It was open to the space it inhabited and surrounded its audience.

Similary,  the music video Michel Gondry directed to Let Forever Be by The Chemical Brothers (2003) makes tangible what is digital and what is digital tangible, even with its restriction to the screen where we can view it. Gondry’s portrayal of a woman waking up and dancing through her day (an explanation of the most literal meaning to be derived from the video) compliments the use of dated filters with the physical rendition of these frames to create confusion amongst the audience. The elusive nature of such confusion is exaggerated from the director’s creation of subjectivity through pairing the imagery in the video with sounds to dictate a relationship or connection with each. The audiences’ confusion is, however, enjoyable as they wish to make sense of what is going on within the video and its almost cheesy ideas that look to be glitched in the low definition budget.

What makes for good representations of remix culture is the idea behind the artwork and the personal aesthetic or voice the artist attaches to it. Nevertheless, there is value in copying ideas. Something can be made better. It can be made different. It can be made unrecognisable.