Metadata Retention and what it means for you
Some of the most controversial law amendments in Australian history passed through an unusually cooperative federal parliament yesterday. Australian citizen, say hello to your new and permanent Metadata Retention Laws.
The laws have passed with bi-partisan support, despite opposition from every imaginable corner of the Australian public, including Australian WA Senator Scott Ludlam, Australian Independent Media Network journalist Rob Marsh, plus basically everyone on Australian Twitter. Chief Researcher at security firm Rapid 7 H.D. Moore has criticised the laws for their inability to track criminal activity, citing issues with hackers accessing retained data.
“Data retention laws are unlikely to be of use to law enforcement and in fact may be harmful to consumers overall – that data has to be stored somewhere and makes a juicy target for hackers.”
Some key amendments were made by Labor following criticisms from journalists’ unions, most of which will focus on protecting the phone and internet records of journalists and guarding journalists’ sources. Australian security agencies will now need a warrant to search journalists’ records.
So what will these laws actually do? Here’s a basic breakdown.
- Whoever currently provides you with internet/phone network services (Telstra, Optus etc) will keep current information about what you do with those services, as soon as you create that information, for two years i.e. texting, calling, browsing.
- Information about what numbers you call, when you call, and how long you call for will be immediately available to security agencies, but they will have to obtain a warrant to actually look at ‘what’ you are saying or browsing for.
- Security agencies will be permitted to access this information, when it is ‘reasonably necessary’.
The taxpayer will probably be paying for at least a part of the $400 million cost associated with retaining the metadata. This figure has been put forward in recognition of the mounting costs associated with the price of the storage needed to retain the data.
Measures can be taken to protect yourself from the effect of these laws already. According to Malcolm Turnbull we have all the applications and technologies we need to render these laws ineffective. In an interview with Sky News on Thursday, Mr Turnbull recommended several applications, such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Skype, which encrypt (disguise) any information that you are sending to another person and ensure that Telstra or Optus cannot access the content of your everyday communications.