Data retention bill passes the house
On 19 March 2015, the Australian Federal House of Representatives passed its privacy invading data retention bill which will allow the government to spy on the internet history of all Australians. The bill passed by the house is called the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015.
The law will work by requiring your internet service provider (e.g. Telstra, Optus, iiNET, TPG and others) to retain a record of all of the sites you have visited for at least two years. Your ISP will be forced to hand over your data to a multitude of law enforcement agencies for all sorts of reasons. Whilst the government is selling this law as the fight against terrorism, it applies to everyone and not just suspected terrorists.
But I’m not a terrorist so I am safe, right?
If you think these laws won’t adversely affect you then you are mistaken. Terrorists and paedophiles already know how to avoid the government tracking their metadata so the data retention laws will have no effect on their criminal activities. The government knows this. So, if the criminals can already avoid the data retention laws and the government knows this, then who are the laws really targeting? The answer is the laws target ordinary Australians like you.
If your ex-spouse or partner makes a malicious complaint about you to the police then they will be able to access two years worth of your metadata. If a disgruntled business partner makes a malicious police complaint against you then two years worth of your metadata will become available to the police. If a foreign movie studio or music industry association accuses you of illegally downloading a video or song, then two years of your metadata might be disclosed.
Where have you visited on the internet over the last two years?
Just think about every site you might visit in a two year period, intentionally or not. The government will know every financial institution you use. The government will know every anti-government website you have visited. What about that movie and song you downloaded from a torrent site? The government will have a record of every not-safe-for-work site you may have visited; even those awful sites you may have visited accidentally, all from up to two years ago. Everything you do on-line will be monitored, recorded and disclosed to the police, other law enforcement agencies and government.
Your metadata will be a honey pot target for criminal hackers
There is also a high risk that your metadata will fall into the hands of criminals. The law requires your ISP to store the metadata for when the government wants to access it. ISPs have already warned that the stored metadata of over 20 million Australians will be a honey pot of data that will attract the most sophisticated hackers. It is inevitable that one day a hacker will succeed and your data will be released to the seedy on-line underworld of criminal hackers and criminal enterprises to be traded and sold for malicious purposes.
You can protect yourself with a VPN
Fortunately, you can protect yourself. Yes it does costs money (remember that next time you vote at the federal election).
You can protect yourself by using a Virtual Private Network (or VPN). Using a VPN is perfectly legitimate. VPNs work by encrypting your internet data and tunnelling it through a secure server (you can select servers based all around the world) and that secure server then connects you to the site you want to visit or downloads the file you want.
When you use a VPN, your ISP will retain data that you visited a VPN server. The data sent to the server will be encrypted (i.e. it will be kept secret from the ISP and government) and also the ISP and government will have no idea which sites you visited, or what file your downloaded, because the VPN server is the computer that actually connects you to those sites (not your ISP). Your identify will also be hidden from movie studios and music industry investigators.
How do I choose and get a VPN?
You should choose a VPN that:
- does not keep logs of your internet activity (that way, if they receive court orders or warrants to hand over your data they have nothing stored to give away)
- has fast servers (given all your internet traffic will be tunnelled through this server, you need it to be fast so as to not slow down your internet, this rules out free VPNs)
- has servers located in lots of countries (that way you can unlock lots of sites, including Netflix and overseas shopping sites, by tricking them that you are overseas when you are really in Australia)
- has apps for all your devices (PC, Mac, Android and iOS for iPad and iPhone).
Below are four affordable and recommended VPN service providers that give you all of the above.
2. Global VPN and smart DNS bundle at Overplay.net (to also unlock Netflix and more on your Smart TV and devices)
What are you waiting for?
Protect yourself from your spying government and hackers and also unlock overseas streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and more by getting a VPN.