Following the footsteps of USA, Australia also started collecting and storing their customers' data from this week because of the mandatory data retention scheme that was purposed two years ago, back in October 2015, in which telcos were instructed to store their customers' phone and internet data for two years allowing the Australian Government and authorities to investigate it if there's a need for it.
So, Aussies, buckle up, as starting from this week your metadata will be kept for two years and will be handed over to your Government and intelligent agencies without your consent. But, according to the Federal Government, it's clearly mentioned in the metadata retention scheme that information obtained from this metadata will not be used in civil legal proceedings.
What Is Metadata? And Why It Should Concern You?
For all of you who are not quite sure about what is Metadata, and what kind of data is being collected by telcos, here are few pointers that'll help you in understanding the whole concept of it:
- Metadata is all the information that can be sorted out to create a perfect digital footprint of an individual. It's a non-content data.
- The Metadata information doesn't include your exact words in your conversations or all the content of your Whatsapp conversations but only the data that revolves around that content or communication like whom you had communication with and the time duration of it.
- Metadata is just like seeing information on the package like Name, Address, delivery address, but not actually opening it and seeing what's inside of it.
So, on the fences, this collection of metadata may not seem that grim, but a journalist, Quentin Dempster, wrote in one of his articles that if this data retention law comes into effect, “this country's entire communications industry will be turned into a surveillance and monitoring arm of at least 21 agencies of executive government.”
“Over time, your metadata will expose your private email, SMS and fixed-line caller traffic, consumer, work and professional activities and habits, showing the patterns of all your communications, your commercial transactions, and monetised subscriptions or downloads, exactly who you communicate with, and how often.”
So, you think you're better off with trading your metadata with your telcos in compliance to the new law in place? Well, think again.
Developments Happening This week
When this data retention scheme was passed two years ago, all the big telecommunication companies (Telstra, Vodafone and Optus) were given a grace period of 18 months to put their systems in place and plan accordingly to comply fully with this data retention law.
Now, as of 13th April 2017, that 18 months period has expired and from now on your metadata will be collected and stored. Keeping in mind the severity of the cases reported, the number of people and authorities with whom this metadata can be shared may grow massively.
Australian Government is currently planning to use this metadata in cases related to employer-employee disputes, child custody cases, divorce cases and matters pertaining to different businesses.
How Can You Protect Your Data and Online Privacy From Your Government And Your Telcos?
Privacy Rights Advocates have already expressed serious concerns about this metadata collection and have stated that this metadata retention will take away the privacy of every Australian individual.
Although the Government has taken this action to monitor terrorist activities and criminal investigations but at the cost of getting people's privacy violated completely and leaving them in a Glass House with nothing to hide.
The recent spike in Australian consumers purchasing VPN services are also the testament to the fact that people don't like their privacy being taken away from them. Moreover, recently Digital Rights Watch also celebrated a National “Get A VPN” Day in which they encouraged the Australians to use VPNs to safeguard their online communications from Government Surveillance.
In words of Greens Senator and Communications Spokesperson, Scott Ludlam, “you're not breaking the law“. The Federal Government may review these data retention laws again in 2019, but until then, they'll have lucrative data trove of millions of Australian citizens.
So, Aussies, get ready and brace yourselves with a VPN as that's the only way you can protect your privacy from being torn apart.