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Social issues

Data Retention Begins Now!

– by Sophia Joyce

October the 13th 2015 is the day that Australian Mandatory Data Retention laws kick in.

If you don’t know what the data retention scheme is, it is a system that makes telecommunication companies (telcos) and Internet Service Provider’s (ISP’s) retain metadata on their customers for two years. This data can be given to law enforcement agencies to stop bad guys and terror threats happening in Australia.

The recorded information will cover who sent a message, who received it, when, where and how. But the contents of the message won’t be saved; they wouldn’t want to invade your privacy.

But as Tony Abbott explained it, metadata retention is like the envelope carrying the letter, rather than the content of the letter itself. He is right in an old fashioned kind of way, but this metaphor is much more complicated in the digital age.

This is because it is so much harder to separate the who, when and where in an online environment. When we use the Internet we constantly leave information like a breadcrumb trail behind us, it’s not just a name and address written on an envelope.

Because the World Wide Web is constantly changing, no one really knows what metadata is. The concept is blurry and confusing, but what we need with this legislation is clarity.

Thankfully, Communications Minister now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has given us a way to avoid data retention laws.

While discussing journalists and whistle blowers to Sky News in March, he suggests that using overseas communications like WhatsApp and Skype, as Australian telcos can only track what app you have used not who you are talking to.

As Malcolm Turnbull said, there are always ways for people to get around things, but of course a lot of people don’t.

“Data retention is not a silver bullet; it is not 100% guaranteed it is one tool in many tools.”

If you are one of the few that want to get around things online, here are a few ways to ensure anonymity online.

1. Use an overseas email or social media

Something like Gmail, Facebook or Twitter direct messaging, you probably already use these though. So keep talking like you do! You don’t see Google or Facebook giving up their information to the Australian Police?

2. Use a VPN

A Virtual Private Network provides users with secure access by automatically encrypting your data at the sending and receiving end. To get a VPN you subscribe a monthly payment to a VPN-like service and it will only cost you about $10 a month.

3. Encrypt your own data

This is really a lifestyle choice if you are still super paranoid about data retention and spying so, here is a list of websites that will teach you how to get started.

Photo Credits: Featured Image by ShutterStock 

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