The Australian Government is almost at the point of passing into law mandatory meta data retention. The aim, they say, is to protect us from the bad guys: stop terrorism and catch criminals. But it is a load of crap.
The sitting government has a history of using the ‘terrorism’ buzzword to incite fear into the everyday citizen in a feeble attempt to control them or take the spotlight off their own political problems.
In fact, the same act that this government is hoping to change already allows for retention and surveillance on suspected criminals. Beyond that, there is little to no evidence of sweeping mandatory data retention actually helping to solve crime.
*Also watch *
The fact that these new laws mean journalists and whistleblowers may begin to self censor due to fear is also frightening. ASIO attempted to silence a whistleblower who was revealing illegal activities by themselves and ASIS in 2013. There will be more of this with absolutely no public oversight or court proceedings. Warrants will not be required to try and find out who that journalist spoke to or where they were at the time.
These departments operate unto themselves, doing what is required and when asked questions using national security to dodge them. We are heading straight for an US NSA type situation where completely legal tracking, retention and spying on citizens for no reason and with no prejudice occurs.
When similar laws were attempted to be introduced in Europe, the European Court of Justice overruled them, stating “… by requiring the retention of those data and by allowing the competent national authorities to access those data, the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.”
And then we come to the old I have nothing to hide *argument. And this may very well be the case. But it’s not about whether you do or don’t have something to hide. It’s about choosing who you want to reveal your private and confidential data to. And this goes further. If one day you are in a public or high profile position and someone gets a hold of this data, they can use it to threaten and intimidate you. We should not be arguing against privacy. Ever. Not to mention are we not supposed to be Innocent until proven guilty?*
Then there is the cost. Our government has no plans to subsidise costs for this retention. One ISP has said it will cost $100 million in the first two years alone. This will more than likely be passed to the consumer when we already pay too much for our internet when compared to our speeds and the rest of the world.
And security. There is no requirement for ISPs to tell their customers of any breach. And there is no requirement for companies to host this data in Australia. So there isn’t even good news for Australian based data centres and jobs.
What happens when a hacker decides that a trove of citizens data is just sitting there in an off shore data centre is a good target? It is plainly disturbing. It’s bad enough when your email address is found in a company database which was hacked, let alone all of your very personal meta data.
Are you worried? Concerned? You should be. SPEAK UP!
I have taken the liberty of drafting a letter you can use to send to your local member. Get the word out! Tell them you are not happy! Simply use GetUp’s form to send it.
I write to you to inform you of my concern around mandatory data retention. I stand strongly against it- there is lack of any evidence that it will help in anyway to stop crime and it has even been deemed invalid by other countries around the world.
My concerns do not stop there, however. Who is funding this? Will this cost be passed on to the consumer? And where is it being stored? How secure is it? It claims to help stop ‘terrorism’, yet makes it easier than ever before for someone to find a one stop shop for all my data. Just look at how the NSA/USA has been treating their citizens.
And what happens if something goes wrong? Currently there is no measure in place (other than the Parliamentary Joint Committee recommendations) that requires ISPs and telcos to inform us of data breaches.
The European Court of Justice, has spoken out and bluntly rejected the ability for this to happen on the basis that “… by requiring the retention of those data and by allowing the competent national authorities to access those data, the directive interferes in a particularly serious manner with the fundamental rights to respect for private life and to the protection of personal data.”
So where are my rights to privacy? I am a citizen, not a suspect.
In the case that I do become one, Australia already has systems in place to help. The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act specifies the circumstances in which interception of customer communications is lawful and when it is permitted for telecommunications companies to disclose communications data. And this did a lot of good when in recent circumstances this was overlooked and became a national tragedy.
Unlike normal government departments, intelligence agencies lack public oversight, and can use national security as a justification to avoid media scrutiny. This lack of oversight means any wrongdoings, such as corruption, are far less likely to be revealed than in normal government agencies. Public transparency is one of the key motivations for public servants to behave appropriately, but it just doesn’t exist for agencies engaged in surveillance.
The data retention regime will change people’s behaviour, in a way that threatens core processes of democracy like whistleblowing and political scrutiny. People will begin to self-censor themselves for fear that someone is watching them.
Terrorism is a very real threat, but it is also wildly overhyped. About three times more Australians have died falling out of bed since 2001 than have died at the hands of terrorists. As a threat to the health and lives of western citizens, terrorism is negligible compared to deaths caused by poor infrastructure, bad health policies, unsafe workplaces or poverty. *
*The truth is, doing things in the name of preventing terrorism relies on our emotional fear of attacks, and is more about making us feel safe, than actually keeping us safe.
I implore you, as my local member, to throw this ridiculous proposal out. It will do nothing but make every citizen a suspect and start us on the dark road to becoming the next big brother state. We are supposed to be a free and open society, not one that conceals details on every man, woman and child.
Some further reading:
These are great articles to get more views and in depth analysis.
Crikey Clarifier: data retention — what it is and why it’s bad
What is ‘metadata’ and should you worry if yours is stored by law?
Protecting your privacy: Our stand against ‘mandatory data retention’