Why Australia’s New Data Retention Laws Are Stupid And Don’t Work Anyway

Why Australia’s New Data Retention Laws Are Stupid And Don’t Work Anyway

Editor of B&T’s sister business site Which-50.com Andrew Birmingham is no fan of Australia’s new data laws that came into force last week. And, here’s his tips if you want to circumvent them anyway…

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

Australia’s new data retention regime came into force this month and there’s plenty to ridicule. If you put your trousers on left leg first, the laws are dangerous and ill considered. If you butter your croissants right handed you should be outraged that the rules will cost a fortune to administer and are so incompetently drafted that they won’t work.

In response, the Twitterati have spoken, “Australia, you’re drunk. And stupid. Go home.”

Each week Which-50 and KINSHIP digital track Australia’s top retweets and on those rare occasions when Justin Bieber and Five Sounds of Summer don’t sweep the field, we reveal the best non boy-band related subjects dominating the Twittersphere.

Edward Snowden posted Australia’s most shared tweet this week noting, “Beginning today, if you are Australian, everything you do online is being tracked, stored, and retained for two years.”

Snowden, the whistle blower who spans the full hero/traitor dichotomy depending on your own personal bias (Which-50 prefers the former characterisation to the latter) tweeted a link to a Getup page criticizing Australia’s new – and demonstrably ludicrous data retention – laws.

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The stupidity, absurdity and ineptitude of the retention laws are laid bare by the simple expedient of demonstrating how easy they are to circumvent.

Ssshhhh no one tell the terrorists… or the Daily Telegraph!

For those of you worried that Malcolm Turnbull might be tracking your perfectly understandable and appropriate One Direction infatuation here’s the skinny from Getup on how to keep ASIO out of your Harry Styles Meta Data dump.

  • Use public Wi-Fi hotspots, which aren’t covered by the data retention scheme. For example, use the Wi-Fi provided at a council hotspot, library, university (or Parliament House!)
  • Use a foreign-operated messaging service (which most messaging services are), such as Google chat, Twitter direct messages, Facebook messenger or Whatsapp.  NB: Intelligence agencies will still be able to see if you are using these services, but Australia’s data retention scheme won’t be able to tell who you’re messaging. (Also be mindful that the good folk at the NSA will still be able to see this.)
  • Use a foreign-operated email service, such as Gmail or Hotmail (which many Australians already do). Again, intelligence agencies will still be able to see if you are using these services, but Australia’s data retention scheme won’t be able to tell who you’re emailing. That being said, if you are emailing someone who uses an Australian-based email service, they will have access to their metadata – i.e. know you emailed them. (And again, be mindful that the good folk at the NSA will be able to see this.)

In fact this is just the easy stuff. Getup provides a list of additional tools for those of you who want to go seriously dark and keep your embarrassing personal musical tastes and personality foibles out of the incorruptable hands of our public (and private) entities.

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(Image: Nobody tell ASIO)

In the subsequent Tweet conversation there is also a link to a blog by Robin Doherty called “Your digital privacy ends this time next week” which contains a more extensive discussion about the kinds of data being retained.

Doherty reveals that “About 2500 people can access the data, without warrant. The same people can authorise access for others, without warrant.”

And he helpfully lists the agencies authorised to access this information without a warrant (we added the links, just to give you some peace of mind that your metadata is in safe hands):

  • ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation)
  • Australian Border Force
  • Australian Federal Police
  • All state and territory police forces
  • The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity
  • Australian Crime Commission
  • 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 (public or private) the Attorney General publicly declares

So basically, anybody at all.

The eight of the next nine most popular retweets involve pretty musicians who sound great once their voices are synthesized, while the list of the ten most retweeted tweets was rounded out with an EA Sport’s FIFA promo.