I’m often surprised at what a surveillance state I live in being a UK citizen and I was never surprised more than when Edward Snowden revealed just how deep my government’s spying abilities ran in the UK and throughout the world.
Step forward Australia who are about to become even more invasive than the UK and will certainly vie for top position in the how to invade into your citizen’s privacy stakes. Yes, as of October 13th, 2015 privacy for online use of Australians is set to end.
Big brother watching for 2 years
On this date, new laws requiring ISPs and telephone companies will come into force requiring them to store data on each and every citizen for a minimum of 2 years. The storage of data will be full metadata. Metadata is the where, the who and the when.
Essentially the type of data stored on you will be such things as who you called, for how long and roughly where you are at the time. In regard to the internet the logging of what website you visit has been omitted but it will be up to the individual ISP if they wish to store details of the server of the website you visited. In many cases multiple websites can be stored on one server but in some cases there may only be one ultimately revealing what websites you accessed.
Email providers based outside of Australia such as Gmail won’t fall under the data retention requirements but those operating inside Australia will and as such any emails you send will have the time, date, sender and receiver stored.
While metadata may not actually contain the details of your usage or communications the very real threat of it building a profile should not be underestimated. In the US General Michael Hayden said, “We kill people based on metadata”. So if you thought metadata was immaterial and you had no need to worry then with a statement like that it goes to show just what profile the government can build on you simply from Metadata alone.
Little oversight on who accesses your data
When data retention begins the stored information will be accessible by at least 21 different agencies and worst of all they won’t require a warrant to access it. The following agencies will have access.
- ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation)
- Australian Federal Police
- All state and territory police forces
- The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
- Australian Crime Commission
- Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
- Australian Securities and Investments Commission
- Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
- NSW Crime Commission
- NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption
- NSW Police Integrity Commission
- Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission
- West Australian Corruption and Crime Commission
- South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption
- Any other agency the Attorney General publicly declares
If you’re hoping your ISP may champion against such access then you’re in for a disappointing time as ISPs and telephone companies can be fined up to $2 million Australian dollars should they fail to comply.
With agencies having such free and blanket access you would imagine there would be some oversight which is somewhat true as a register of which agency and which users’ data was requested will also be stored by ISPs and telephone companies, however, the two year jail sentence handed down to anyone revealing details on who accessed whose metadata will pretty much stop you ever discovering if yours has been requested.
If you weren’t aware of the new requirements then it is hardly surprising as they were passed by parliament with very little fanfare or public consultation. In fact the majority of what was proposed cleared without change and extremely quickly.
As of October 2 years of your life will be stored continually and be allowed to be dipped into whenever agencies feel the need even if you’re not part of a terrorist, paedophile or another criminal network. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?
What you can do to stop your metadata being logged
Luckily there is a way to protect both your computer and mobile devices internet use from being logged. For this you will require a VPN. A VPN otherwise known as a Virtual Private Network is a totally legal system that protects your online privacy by encrypting your internet connection and passing it to a third-party server located elsewhere. This means the majority of your metadata can’t be stored because everything is encrypted. The only data possible will show that you connected to a VPN server, everything else is scrambled.
You should sign up to a VPN provider not based in Australia and connect to a server in a nearby country such as New Zealand or one in Asia for speed reasons. A VPN from the following three providers is available as a small piece of software for your PC or Mac or an app for Android or iOS phones/tablets meaning you’ll be able to protect your privacy both at home and while out using Wi-Fi or mobile data.
Just click one of the following providers names below to visit their site.
VPN services are incredibly easy to use and just require you to download their software or app and press to connect to a server outside Australia. Once that is done you can simply leave it running and everything you do on the internet is then encrypted and your privacy protected.
No longer can your internet metadata be stored and you’ll be mostly free of such intrusive government logging.
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net