How to protect yourself from the new data retention law.

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A few months ago, the Australian government passed a law that does not seem to care for the Civil Rights of its citizens. The injustice we are referring to is the data retention law that came into effect on April.

This law requires that telecommunication companies to keep a record of customer metadata for a period of at least 2 years. This metadata will be from phone calls, texts, email and even internet browsing activity. The data will be accessible by the government, its intelligence and law enforcing agencies. But some people are turning to VPNs to protect themselves. To learn more about how to protect yourself, check out this site that talks about VPNs and how to use them effectively.

The fact that the Privacy Awareness Week was just a few weeks ahead didn’t deter the Australian government to pass a law that ironically invades people’s privacy. Disturbingly, other Western democracies seem to follow suit, for instance, the UK passed the Investigatory Powers Act and the US made a decision to repeal the Internet Privacy Law.

Why it matters

First and foremost, the law undermines the Australian Privacy Principles which state the limited conditions under which your personal information can be collected. The Privacy Principles state that personal information must be collected only by “fair” means.

Additionally, metadata, which is essentially data about data, has been proven to tell more about a person than the actual contents of his/her communications. Metadata is very broad in scope and those that think that data about data doesn’t affect their right to privacy are very wrong indeed.

Attorney-General George Brandis.

The government justified this law with the need to protect Australians from terrorist attacks. However, the risk of Australia having such an attack has been low for many years. Other countries such as France, Germany and Israel have higher risks of attacks based on threats subjected to them, yet, they have not resulted to mass data collection of their citizens, instead, they have better, more targeted means to counter terrorism without violating their people’s civil rights. There are a range of widely accessible technologies  that can used instead of data retention, in fact, the now prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull had previously outlined some of them.

As if that is not enough, on top of violating civil rights, the law is set to increase the budgetary debt by approximately A$740 million over the next ten years. How’s that for a legacy.

How can we protect ourselves from the intrusive law?

Fortunately, all is not lost, there are several technologies we can use to challenge the law and increase our online privacy in the process. They include;

  1. Virtual private networks (VPN)- VPNs are used to hide your browsing activity from trackers and internet service providers. To learn more about how to protect yourself, check out this site that talks about VPNs and how to use them effectively.
  2. Tor – this is a software that helps keep you anonymous online by hiding your identity from surveillance. An example of such software is the Onion Router.
  3. Encrypted message applications – most messaging application can be easily tracked, however, if you use a platform that offers encryption to your messages, you will be safe from snooping. Telegram and Signal are good places to start.

Citizens of Australia need to be vigilant for laws that invade their civil rights. The continued regulation of the internet is further evidence that the government is headed in the direction of deteriorating those very crucial rights. It is the responsibility of the citizens to have open and honest debates to criticize such laws and call out misguided representatives. Finally, the public should strive to elect representatives who value democratic principles that support a modern Australian society.