Australia new data retention laws have seen a boom in VPN use in the country, with NordVPN reporting an increase in Australian subscribers of 100% since National Get a VPN Day in Australia back on April 13th.
Your online data is now retained for two years
As regular readers may recall, back in March 2015, the Australian Parliament passed the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act. This legislation included a number of controversial measures, but none more so than its data retention requirements.
These required data generated by Australians when they go online, either through a fixed line connection, Wi-Fi, or a mobile connection to be retained for a period of two years. The retained data included such details as the date and time of their connection, their account name, and the duration of their connection to different services.
The cut-off date for ISPs to ready themselves for these new requirements was April 12th this year, which is why privacy advocates labeled April 13th as National Get a VPN Day, the first day when all Australian’s using the internet should be doing so via a VPN if they care at all about their online privacy.
How to protect your online data
“[A VPN] is probably one of the best ways to try and get around the idea of your internet provider providing all of the metadata engagement that you do online to your government,” explained Tim Singleton Norton from Digital Rights Watch, who played a big part in making National Get a VPN Day such as success.
And if NordVPN’s figures are anything to go by, it seems that plenty of them have got the message that if you don’t want the Government to know everything about your online activity, then a VPN is the ideal solution.
Marty P Kamden, the CMO of NordVPN has also explained why he thinks they have seen such an upturn in the number of users down under.
“Collecting metadata undermines Australians’ privacy — and the benefits of data collection are still not clear. Additionally, any kind of data retention is known to attract hackers, lured by huge amounts of personal data stored in one place.”
Bulk data collection threatens security as well as privacy
Kamden is right to emphasise the security risks of the bulk collection of personal data as well as the privacy implications. Data is a valuable commodity and storing such quantities of valuable data in a single database is a potential recipe for disaster.
Hackers will inevitably be drawn to such sites for the rich pickings that are on offer and the sad fact is that often this data is not kept in a secure and encrypted format. This makes it easy for hackers to make it away with your data and this, of course, could potential compromise your security too.
It is not just Governments that collect data in this way, big IT companies, social media sites, and advertisers do the same.
There are a number of steps that people can take to protect their online data from being collected and stored in this manner. The principal one is to make use of a reputable VPN which will encrypt all of your online data and also hide your IP Address, making it all but impossible for your online data to be connected to you.
And there are various other steps you can take to protect in addition to using a VPN, as Marty Kamden has rightly pointed out. This includes regularly deleting cookies, using privacy-oriented browser plugins, installing effective anti-virus and anti-tracking software, and not undertaking any sensitive activity on public Wi-Fi networks without protecting yourself with a VPN.
In the wake of National Get a VPN Day, the Australian people seem to be getting the message and users in other countries where such bulk data retention takes place, like the UK, are also using VPNs in growing numbers too.
But in the current climate, it is strongly advisable that everyone using the internet, on any advice, does so through a VPN connection and takes all the other privacy steps laid out in this article as well. Both your online privacy and your data security depends on it.