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Data Retention Directives in Australia

In Australia, there is no mandatory data retention law. The Australian Parliament despite the opposition by various journalists, activist, the general public and public figures passed amendments in 2015. The amendments was passed to the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. It compels the ISPs and various telecom companies to be vigilant and keep records of user’s activity. Also, they were asked to preserve their data for a period of two years.

What’s the Australian DRD All About?

The DRD presented by the Australian Parliament is comprehensive and intrusive in nature. Moreover, the DRD is not correct in many ways. Most of the ISP and telecommunications service providers offer the users with an IP address which changes occasionally. However, the DRD forces the ISP and telecom companies to keep a track record of user’s allocation of IP address.

The DRD in Australia is offensive, ridiculous, and a great threat to user’s privacy and unrestricted communication. The data retention laws induce the network service providers and mobile carriers to retain user’s email address, IP address, location. Also, a record of user’s device, who, when and by whom the user received text, emails, and messages.

Historical Background of DRD in Australia:

The Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon in July 2012 enforced DRD which were similar to the laws implemented in the European Union. The Attorney General Nicola Roxon succumbed a set of proposals in the Australian Parliament. The set of proposals signifies that such trails and actions would definitely boost up the country’s law enforcement organizations accessible surveillance powers. This also includes a ‘’tailored’’ data retention system for a two years period.

For the purpose of protecting citizen’s personal data, the data protection laws are implemented in Australia. The Ozlog mandatory data retention policy requires the ISP to preserve the data about the user’s web history for two years. This policy box has made things at ease for the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO). The ASIO can now break into the user’s computer and computer networks. The ASIO officers also target third parties and accuse anyone who names them.

The Australian Senate Privacy Report:

In 2011, a report was issued by the Australian Senate which suggested that the Australian government first learn about the costs, advantages, and dangers of data retention directives. The report reveals that recollecting data is essential for law enforcement agencies and rationalizes enforcement cost to the service providers.

The report further added that the Australian government must promise the citizens that their data would be retained in a secured manner. Moreover, it will be open to appropriate accountability mechanism.

The report also asked the Australian government to refer a wide array of stakeholders and NGO’s to whom the Australian government still has to consult. However, Australia’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security refused to accept the existing proposal’s terms of reference. It was send it back again for reconsideration.

Australian Metadata Retention Law:

In October 2015, the Australian Parliament passed the bill on metadata retention. According to this bill, the country ISPs and telecom service providers are forced to retain user’s metadata for a period of two years. The service providers are legally bound to preserve the data which would be used later for investigation and proceedings by different Australian law enforcement agencies.

The telecommunication companies had 18 months’ time to do planning on data retention policies. The Australian renowned top three broadband companies including; Vodafone, Optus, Telstra has asked for 18 months’ time for preparing data retention strategies. After completing the required time period these companies were able to store citizen’s data. However, the government has assured that the retained data will only be used for investigation purpose in any criminal case, divorce proceedings, employee-employee dispute, and child custody cases.

Despite being against the privacy promoters, the metadata retention laws are supported by both Labor and Coalition. A journalist working for The Sydney Morning Herald quoted;

‘’The law will turn the country’s entire communication system into a surveillance mechanism for at least 21 of the government agencies active in the country.’’ Quentin Dempster

What Does Metadata Retention Law Look For?

Within the metadata retention law, all the users will be inspected and observed by 21 Australian agencies with almost 2500 appointed officers. The data retained following this law includes user’s account details like name, location, phone number, details of emails, messenger, social media, and websites used, device location, receiver’s communication details and much more. Such obtained data gives information and details about a user’s personal life, behaviour and financial status. The Australian government by obtaining such information is able to make a separate user profile and knows about their likes, dislikes, financial status, relationship status, political views, medical history and much more.

What can be done?

If you are against the data retention directives and policies and is concerned about internet privacy so, there are ways by which you can challenge this law and can surely maximize your privacy. You can move to the usage of various technologies to increase your online privacy. Moreover, there are other measures by which you can save your data from being retained. Following are some of the tips which can help you to maximize your online privacy:

  1. You can use encrypted ‘’Over the top” (OTT) messaging apps since they sidestep the government surveillance of with whom who communicate and when.
  2. It is recommended not to use the email address provided by the ISP. Instead, use a free Gmail and Outlook account. You can also join a privacy-focused provider such as Protonmail.
  3. Use OTT voice call apps such as ‘’Voice-over-IP’’ (VOIP) since it doesn’t require much data and also don’t record anything under Australian DRD.
  4. Under Australian DRD’s VPN’s doesn’t seem much helpful thus, avoid them.

Conclusion:

There are various countries who are against data retention laws. The data retention directives in Australia are intrusive and they might increase in near future. This is a global fight which can only be tackled and combat with global alliance and unity.

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