Metadata retention

Without the content of a message, you’re privacy can’t be breached, can it? What the hell is metadata anyway? Thankfully the Attorney General has posted a clarifying letter which makes it quite clear they will be pursuing the EU model (which has already been declared unconstitutional in Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic).

The metadata applies to:

landline, mobile telephony, internet access, internet email and internet telephony.

And the metadata contains:

  • the source of a communication
  • the destination of a communication
  • the date, time and duration of a communication
  • the type of a communication
  • the users’ communication equipment or what purports to be their equipment
  • the location of mobile communication equipment

Let’s break this down. Millions of Australians have smart phones which are constantly using the internet to check for new email, download updates, synchronize calenders etc. Every time this happens, their location (presumably which mobile phone towers they are connected to) will be monitored and stored.

If this model is followed, the minute to minute movements of millions of Australians for two years will be monitored and stored. If that isn’t a gross invasion of privacy, I don’t know what is.

Edit: Rodney posted the video below which tells the story better than I ever could.

Gone in 60 seconds – How to bypass data retention in under a minute

If the proposed expansion of national security powers and internet surveillance comes to pass, many people will want to bypass it to protect their right to privacy. Here’s one way to do it.

  1. Go to privateinternetaccess.com
  2. Pay $40 for a yearly account
  3. Download and install their software
  4. Log in to your account and connect

That it, you’re done in less than a minute. All your internet traffic will be encrypted and routed through their servers, bypassing any data retention by the Australian government.

Of course this raises the question, if it can be bypassed so easily, for $40 a year, how could the system possibly hope to catch determined criminals? I challenge the scheme’s supporters to provide an answer.

Send Nicola Roxon a copy of 1984

Given the recent push for increased surveillance, ISP data retention, and the erosion of any “right to remain silent”, I wonder if Nicola Roxon has read 1984.

First edition cover of George Orwell's 1984

Let’s make sure she has, or at least that she re-reads it, given the circumstances. I’m going to buy her a copy and send it to her address at parliament house:

Attorney-General Nicola Roxon
Parliament House, Canberra 2600

You can do the same. Find a copy in your local book store, or order online at fishpond ($9.51 including shipping), book depository ($9.43 including shipping), or amazon. Be sure to mark it as a gift and include a note, but be civil. We are trying to convince her that our privacy and freedoms are important, and that new powers will violate them in an attempt to catch criminals that has dubious efficacy at best. Twenty copies of 1984 landing on her desk should get our message across.

If you send one, let me know in the comments so I can tally it up. If you’d like to remain somewhat anonymous, I could send one on your behalf, just contact me on email at danielkinsman@gmail.com, using my public key for encryption of course. I promise not to retain your data.

ISP Data Retention

So Nicola Roxon (Labor MP and Governer General), you think it would be a great idea to force ISPs to store our browsing history for 2 years. This is apparently needed to catch the bad guys. What could possibly go wrong?

Well for starters, it won’t actually stop criminals. Anybody doing anything illegal online will decide to use some form of encryption or anonymity.

This will only hurt law abiding citizens. The price of broadband will go up. Collecting and storing all this data will cost the ISPs money, and they will have little choice but to pass this cost on to their customers. Secondly, all this data is a goldmine – for advertisers, scammers and criminals. They will break into the ISPs and steal the data, making it available to everyone. You aren’t hurting criminals, you’re helping them.

Our privacy is important. Maybe I write pseudonymous fan fiction based on the tv show Glee, maybe I just googled “how to tell if you have herpes”. Maybe I don’t want the whole world knowing these things. Maybe some of your fellow MPs are into cross-dressing, or something equally innocuous they they nevertheless want kept private.

This is another one of those ridiculous schemes like the internet filter – there’s no win for anybody. It’s lose lose lose lose lose. Don’t be stupid Roxon.

For the same arguments written by someone better, check out Nick Ross’ article on the ABC.