Some time back when the Government were still considering their ill-conceived ‘Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014‘ – I promised to show how easy it is to circumvent their evil collection methods – but haven’t …
Now I will!
But first I wanted to join the discussion of why storage of ‘metadata’ for a mandatory 2 years is a futile exercise that invades our privacy.
Futile because it’s predicated on the assumption that the ‘bad guys’ are dumb and use open methods of communication to plot their dastardly deeds. If this was the case then the countries that currently HAVE a data retention scheme would be trumpeting their rocketing rate of crime prevention & convictions – but they aren’t. In fact Germany abandoned their scheme when a study revealed ‘no discernible improvement in solving crimes when the scheme was in place.’
The amendment sets no standards for encryption or security of your collected data – so in fact we’re creating vast repositories of personal information that will be like ‘shining beacons’ to the less savoury characters of the IT world – who target victims for identity theft, hacking, social engineering & other forms of technological foul-play.
So – how do we avoid all of our communications being ‘snooped upon’?
If you rely on conventional methods like mobile phones, SMS, ISP-based emails and connecting to the internet via standard browsers using the parameters supplied by your provider – you can’t! Details of every phone call, email, & SMS you make or receive will be collected & stored by ‘Big Brother’
The good people at GetUp offer the following easy tips to circumvent the data retention scheme:
- 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 even 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 NSA will still be able to see this.)
- Use a foreign-operated email service, such as Gmail or Hotmail (which many Australians already do).
NB: 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.)
Now if you want to get really serious you’ll have to employ some more technological solutions.
For Browsing, take a look at The Tor Project – An anonymous browser originally designed to allow information out from behind heavily censored regimes.
To cover your computer tracks completely you may have to invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) – some of the best are reviewed here.
A VPN will also allow you to get around the government’s latest attempt at censorship – The Copyright Amendment (Online Infringement) Bill … but I plan to spend another column discussing this soon.
There are many resources devoted to protecting your online privacy – perhaps the most comprehensive is EPIC – Electronic Privacy Information Center an independent non-profit research center that works to protect privacy, freedom of expression & democratic values – all that the Government is attempting to stifle!