The Disturbing Reality Of Data Retention
That thing we don't really need but keep getting told we do really need.
Tony Abbott, Canberra, politics... All words that will have you groaning and clicking away desperately for something more interesting. However, something important has been happening in our nation's capital, and that is metadata retention. It all started when Senator George Brandis put the idea forward that all telephone companies and internet-providers must engage in mandatory data retention for a minimum of two years. Ol’ Egg Head thought it was good idea for our intelligence bodies, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), to have more power by collecting metadata. But Brandis got a little lost when he tried to explain it initially.
Now lets show you what metadata can make:
Here’s the time I went to Newcastle to visit a friend of mine, Google tracked my whole journey:
Or that time when I was interning for Pilerats in Perth and went to Mandurah for a festival and stayed in Fremantle for the night:
You can see where I stopped for Maccas and then a pizza (but not at the same time, I’m not that unhealthy). Also it tells you when I did all these things. That’s ‘metadata’, a digital trail of me that can be used to create a profile of who I am. You can also see how Google tracks your every step by clicking HERE. And sure you can alter your location services so this doesn’t happen but the Government’s proposed bill will collect this and more regardless.
So what will be collected as metadata?
- When you call someone the location of both of you will be recorded.
- The length and time of your discussion.
- The number of this person you called.
- Email addresses of people you contact/contacted you.
- What applications you uses, when and for how long.
- When you log on and off the internet.
- Who is online when you log online to say Facebook.
- The names anyone uses on said site.
- How many people are on said site and if they’re active.
But I don’t do anything wrong so why should I be worried if my phone company and the Government in turn look at it?
Well why not look at this interactive map of German politician Malte Spitz’s phone data over a six month period. Before he could see it he had to sue the phone company Deutsche Telekom for it. And as Zeit Online points out; if compared with his Tweets and his own website, which is available to the public, it’s easy to know his every move. For example on Wednesday, 25 November 2009 he was involved in eight calls total, 29 text messages and in the evening he spoke at a Berlin Hotel called Adlon about the, ‘Politicisation of the Internet’.
The mass-invasion of privacy not convincing enough for you? How about looking at whether this invasion is worthwhile and what powers intelligence groups in Australia already have.
Both the USA and the European Union (EU) have looked into this and came up with the same conclusion, it’s a huge fucking waste of money and it doesn’t prevent terrorism which is the usual reason. A high-level White House Document explained this in more eloquent terms and stated that it did not offer insights into counter-terrorism (p.167). Similarly the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice found that there was no statistical evidence that is was successful.
And in Australia we already allow for the warrants for access of telecommunication devices under the 1979 Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act. Which means:
- The government can see who you’re talking right now and what is being discussed if they wish.
- Read your text messages.
- And view your metadata.
But why they want metadata stored is because telecommunications companies don’t bother storing it anymore. Understandably the large volume of it daily would be very costly to store. And I wonder who will foot the bill if it goes through? Oh that’s right, us. Consider it a friendly ‘internet tax’ that keeps you safe from criminals by watching what you do. And it’s speculated to cost between $180-320 million.
This prompted an inundation of messages to George Brandis in which people discovered that Brandis had linked his emails with his iMessage:
So before I put on my tin-foil hat and you see me standing on a box raving about how the new world is coming, let's just clarify why metadata retention is worse than Mr. Worldwide. Under the recent climate of the Sydney Siege and ISIL the government are pushing this bill forwards because it will ‘protect us’. But fails to explain that Monis, the criminal who caused the Sydney Siege, was already well-known to intelligence services… Therefore it’s a great idea because then the government will just watch you as you get on with your life. Which is wrong on two levels; it’s not even effective at preventing crime and the government should not be allowed to watch your every move as if you’re a criminal.