Now that April 13th already past and the Metadata scheme is already in place in Australia, a lot of controversy arises from who will be able to access the data and how far controverting into Australians privacy it is.
Are we risking too much for uncertain rewards?
Although every security agent in Australia from the top most officials to your local police station will be able to access your Metadata, the police further argue that:
For phone Calls
data includes the phone numbers of the people involved and how long they have talked. The content of the conversation is not included.
data information such as the relevant email address and the time at which it was sent; not the subject of the email and content. data information such as the relevant email address and the time at which it was sent; not the subject of the email and content.
For web searches
The IP address and for how long a user stayed on a site; the content you were surfing is not included in the data.
This will assist to
- Quickly rule out innocent people from suspicion and further investigation.
- Identify suspects and networks of criminal associates.
- Support applications for warrants to use more complex intrusive tools such as interception.
- Safeguarding measures against access to telecommunications set in place.
- Limited data access to a defined list of law enforcement and national security agencies.
- The Attorney General reports to Government on the operation of the data retention scheme each year.
- Where ASIO or enforcement agencies require access to the journalist data, the agency will be required to obtain a warranty and resort to the independent insight body.
- All accessible agencies are subject to oversight by the communication Ombudsman or by the ASIO.
Why is Australia only a late member of this party?
Countries with mandatory data retention laws
As the Electronic Frontiers Foundation published, Australia will not be the first country to enact such data retention laws. There are other countries with such reigning rules, they include:
Data retention scheme ruled unconstitutional and canceled because it compromised privacy.
The Data retention bill was proposed. However, it was stopped by civic campaigns.
Data retention law ruled unconstitutional, and ISP obligations were canceled.
The law is under review in Hungary and Finland being battled in Greece. It was declared constitutional in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany and Romania. Nevertheless, it was restricted in Sweden and Slovakia. On the other hand, Poland has a scheme that goes beyond EU parameters.
Data retention scheme has been vainly challenged.
Data retention scheme does not exist, but communications law can be used to oblige providers to reserve data on government demand.
How to legally save your data from this perdition
Do you want to disable ISP from monitoring or gathering whatever activities you do online? Do you want to stop Telcos from gathering Metadata even from your emails and online conversations? If yes, all you need to is get a VPN.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) like Express VPN, IPVanish, is the only way to counter monitoring and to ensure that all your connections are private and secure. ISPs and Telcos will not be able to access any of your data when using a VPN. The VPN encrypts all your local internet connection, therefore, making it impossible for ISPs to monitor and gather logs of all your activities online and similarly stopping Telcos from gathering the Metadata.
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Are Australian internet users in trouble?
Simon Frew, Pirate Party Australia’s Deputy President, said
Years of undermining privacy and other civil liberties has reached a climax. Everyone will live under the shadow of mass surveillance. We can no longer take our privacy for granted. It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, a lawyer or a journalist — no one can assume that their communications are confidential. This is the most shamelessly authoritarian legislation Australia has seen for a long time.
Does this mean that every Australian will be living in a BIG BROTHER HOUSE with lots of cameras, monitoring every individual activity?
Why is the data retained for two years?
According to this law, this Metadata is to be stored for two years. The law enforcement and security agencies argue that the period is necessary to investigate complex and serious criminal matters. Most requests made by these agencies relate to straight forward and simple cases, which can be solved using data less than six months old. However, complex and serious cases – including many terrorism, espionage, organized crime, financial crime and public crime and public corruption cases. These cases often require lengthy investigations that require data older than six months.
A sigh of relief for social media users
Australian ISP (internet service providers) are not required to keep data about what a person does on social media and in the same way they are not required to retain data on your web browsing history.
Justification for this scheme
Moving from older business models and technology can only mean that telecommunications corporations are not retaining data enough to be used for law enforcement and security investigations. This inconsistent retention and lack of data hampered investigations have been shielding penetrators from justice.
How will this new scheme affect businesses?
For companies that collect a chunk of Metadata about their customers or other members of the public – and in a digital economy that increasingly means that every business will be burdened and red taped discouraging investment in the digitally enabled economy. This is because organizations will be required to allocate additional resources and to respect the complex customer access requests and will also need to redefine their ways to manage such data.
We encourage the government to lead in this area instead and work with the industry to strike a fair balance between promoting investments in the digitized economy while reasonably protecting consumer rights and privacy. This could be a fair deal that providing unreasonable access to Metadata for the sake of access without practical purpose.
This whole situation makes the Office of Australian Information Commissioner questionable whether it is the suitable body to provide this policy equilibrium.