On October 13, 2015, the Metadata Retention law came into play. On that sad and gloomy day, Australian Federal House of Representatives passed the law labeled “Metadata Retention Law.” The law forces internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunications companies to keep track, collect and store the communication data of internet users.
Metadata is basically the data about your data. It includes every phone call you make, text messages you send and emails you write. Moreover, what you do on the internet can be tracked and stored by the Government under this metadata retention scheme.
Is Data Collection Good for Aussies?
According to Attorney’s General Dept., “Data is used in almost every serious criminal or national security investigation, including murder, counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, sexual assault and kidnapping cases.” But it arguably comes at the expense of Australians' privacy, which means it’s the ordinary citizen whose data gets collected the most.
Another problem that arises from the collection of metadata is that it attracts a lot of hackers. Telecommunication and ISPs in Australia have already warned that storing this amount of data will attract unwanted attention since the data alone would be worth millions of dollars.
The Deadline of Metadata Retention Scheme
April 13, 2017, was the deadline for internet providers to be compliant with Australia's metadata retention scheme. All telecommunication companies and internet service providers should have retained two years’ worth of their customers' metadata by the deadline.
What Can the Government See?
When it comes to phone calls, the data includes phone numbers of both individuals’ (the caller and receiver), the duration of the call—not what they said or communicate in a phone call – and the location from where the call was made and received.
Likely, for emails, the data includes information such as the relevant email addresses and when it was sent—not the content of your emails.
“But it is where you did it from, when you did it, to whom, how often”, Said Mr. Singleton Norton.
Australians Demand Right to Privacy But How Do They Protect It?
There has been quite a long debate on how Australians can protect their online privacy from metadata retention, particularly in the context of leaking sensitive personal information to journalists. Is metadata retention really that easy to avoid? If so, what is the point of the legislation? Has parliament just passed a bill for a $400 million white elephant? Let’s have a look at the best possible way to prevent metadata collection.
Under the metadata retention act, the ISP was bound to collect all of that information from the user. If you are too serious about your privacy and want to hide your internet activities from ISPs and telecommunication companies, you might need a VPN.
A VPN might be a more secure option since it encrypts your data. What a VPN does is it sits in between you and your ISP, so all your internet service provider sees is you and the VPN – nothing else. It provides another layer of security and helps in hiding your internet traffic by encrypting the connection.
Which VPN Can You Trust The Most?
To protect yourself from metadata retention, make sure to get the most secure and trustable VPN. A VPN works on protocols. There are various protocols offered by different VPN service providers. Some of them are secure and some are insecure. Moreover, some VPNs are free and some are paid. Most free VPN services only support PPTP VPNs, which is an insecure protocol. While paid VPN providers allow you to use PPTP, L2TP/IPSEC, OpenVPN, SSTP and even SSH to tunnel your connections securely. So, always choose a paid VPN that has a “zero-log policy”.
Why a zero-log policy you ask? Not all VPN providers really do what they claim. Most VPN providers maintain and keep logs of their users and sell it to different agencies. Those that have a zero-log policy don’t keep logs of customers’ data, hence allowing the user to browse the web with complete anonymity.
Also, While choosing a VPN, you have to make sure that the service you are trusting with your data is not based in any of the 5 eyes countries, especially in the Australia because VPN providers based in the country could be pressured to share or hand over customers’ data to ISPs, telecommunication companies or government agencies.