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:
- Choose strong passwords and do not use the same password for every account you access;
- Rather than texting in its natural sense, use a data encrypting service which will not leave a trace with certain service providers;
- 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;
- Use Tor Softwear which masks your web browsing; and
- Keep informed.