Netizens in Australia, take a good hard look at your online privacy, as you are about to say goodbye to it. The Australian government gave 18 months to ISPs and telcos to make necessary structural changes to implement data retention laws. That deadline runs out onApril 13, 2017and now internet services cannot avoid storing user information for up to two years.
This translates into violation of user’s online privacy and security. ISPs and telecom companies can store your personal information, conversations, IP logs, browsing history, location information, and much more. To circumvent the privacy issues brought upon by this legislation, we have created a detailed guide.
One of the ways to bypass metadata retention in Australia is by using a VPN. No wonder online rights organization are calling for a ‘National Get a VPN Day’.
What is Metadata Retention Law
First off, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 requires telecom companies and internet providers to retain a certain set of user data for up to two years. The Data Retention issue was raised at the Australian Parliament back in October 2014 and after many heated debates, the controversial bill was passed in March
The Australian government defends the data retention bill as a measure for national security. However, we all know that it violates online privacy and such surveillance programs would be ample for the government to determine the personal traits of its citizens.
Likewise, data retention could help in tracking down users who are engaged in illegal downloading of content on the internet. What this translates into is that Law enforcement and security agencies can access your personal data without a warrant.
Consequences of Data Retention Law on Your Privacy
The erratic behavior of government and authorities indicate that the internet users are in trouble. To describe in detail, here are some consequences of data retention law on your privacy:
- The telecommunication companies can keep records of your phone calls. However, it is important to note that Telcos will only get hold of your phone numbers, time duration of your calls, the time at which you made the call, recipient’s phone number, and the phone tower that sends and receives the signals to your phone
- Similarly, your ISPs will now store email addresses of users, as it will help them distinguishing a certain pattern. However, the content will not be monitored
- A record of your IP addresses will also be kept and it will be checked on a regular basis to see if you are engaged in activities that are prohibited by the Australian law, hence revealing the websites you visit
- Your ISPs will now be able to keep an eye on you through your location as per the new law. To top it all off, the information of device that you use for communication will also be available to data retention agencies
- The ISPs will keep a close eye on what you are downloading and how you are downloading
How to Get Around Metadata Retention with a VPN
A technology like a VPN service can really help users to wear a virtual mask to hide their online identities and data from the government. With a metadata retention VPN, you can encrypt (hide) all your traffic data by disabling ISP and the government to keep a record of your metadata. Check out some of the best VPN for Australia that will help you escape the data retention.
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Don’t Select a VPN that Operates in Australia
Many factors go into selecting the best VPN service. From server spread to customer support, protocols and performance, good VPNs are separated from the best based on these factors. However, the most important factor of all is the region from which the provider operates.
If the VPN is based in Australia, chances are that it will have to retain user’s metadata as well. Hence, it is pointless to use a VPN and safeguard your information from metadata retention. Therefore, a VPN service located in countries that don’t have such regulations is your safest option. Fortunately, the metadata retention VPN services mentioned above are located in privacy-friendly countries and won’t log your data.
Additional Options to Avoid Metadata Collection
In addition to a VPN, you can use other tools to enhance your online security and avoid metadata collection. These include:
- Tor: with Tor, your internet traffic bounces around different nodes on the Tor network, making you anonymous during the process and preserving your privacy
- HTTPS Everywhere: many websites are not HTTPS yet and don’t secure their user’s privacy; HTTPS Everywhere is an add-on that switches HTTP websites into HTTPS
- Ad Blockers: it is a browser extension that blocks intrusive ads that popup when you visit websites
- Script Blockers: browser extensions like Ghostery and Privacy Badger are excellent in stopping tracking technologies over the Web and not allowing different services from gathering information about your browsing
- PGP: Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) will encrypt your emails and preserve its contents
- Signal: it is an app for iOS and Android devices that encrypt text messages and phone calls
To wrap things up, the newly implemented Data Retention will cost AU$400 million per year to the government so you can expect it to opt for full fledge online surveillance. We should warn all our Australian readers about the consequences that they might have to face in case they do not arrange to protect their online privacy.
The NSA’s and GCHQ’s surveillance program PRISM in the past and repeal of ISP bill has already caused enough panic waves among the citizens of US. While they may be familiar with the feeling of online surveillance, it is certainly a new thing for the Aussie Netizens and one for which they are not prepared for.
Therefore, your data will be stored for surveillance for two years in and outside Australia. The officials from Telstra claim they will encrypt the stored data of their users, but will everyone adopt the same strategy to keep their users’ data safe? We don’t think so.Thus, it is imperative that you encrypt your data using a VPN and bypass Metadata Retention in Australia.