We’ve seen it coming. And It’s here now, the end of internet privacy for Australia. The reason is that a mandatory data retention scheme has come into effect today, April 13, 2017. This law requires internet service providers to retain customer metadata when customers use the internet. This metadata can include internet usage statistics, traffic, and even information about application use.
For a large number of years citizens of Australia mainly believed that what they did on the internet was their own business, and even after this implementation of law, I would wager that a significant amount of Australian internet users will still think their internet use is private just because internet privacy can be hard to understand with how complicated data tracking has become. But user privacy is anything from the truth, and it’s one reason the privacy group Digital Rights Watch has declared April 13, 2017 “National VPN Day.”
In March of 2015, Australia first passed legislation which started this process. The law stated that telecom providers will be required in the future to log account name, date, time, connection, location data, as well as internet history and activity. From this information, telecom providers can specifically see where users are spending their time, whether on social networking or to visit P2P sites.
ISPs and telecom providers were given a year to install systems to handle a large amount of data. Today marks the end of that deadline, and it marks the beginning of the massive impending data collection that throws privacy out the window.
We’ve been recommending VPN use in Australia ever since this law was first mentioned, so at TorGuard we are glad to see that Digital Rights Watch stands by us in our pursuit of a private internet.
“It’s important that we mark this date – and pause to remember that a detailed picture of the private lives of Australian citizens is being collected by telecommunication companies on behalf of the Government. Many interactions we have in the digital world are being collected and stored by our communications providers, all without adequate safeguards” says Digital Rights Watch Chair, Tim Singleton Norton.
Digital Rights Watch has noticed that VPN use has shown a huge uptick in activity since the legislation first passed. One reason is that users are using VPNs like TorGuard to get around streaming restrictions, unblock websites, to protect themselves in mobile cafes with unsecured Wi-Fi, or to just surf the internet with peace of mind.
Digital Rights Watch thinks that VPN is the future of privacy in Australia. “If the government wants to surveil its citizens, then we’ll do everything in our power to equip people to circumvent that surveillance. If it takes every Australian having to run their digital lives through a VPN for the government to recognize that, then so be it.”