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Go dark against data retention

This week, the Government's data retention scheme comes into effect.

The scheme, which was recklessly rushed through Parliament by the Liberals and Nationals with Labor's support, is costly, ineffective, and against the public interest. Absurdly, the flawed legislation leaves open numerous loopholes, which can be used to evade the data retention. This means the data retention dragnet will capture the data of innocent Australians and cost millions of dollars, while allowing those who don't want to be caught to remain hidden.

To show just how ineffective the invasive scheme will be, listed below are the tools and services everybody can use to circumvent data retention.

How easy is it to circumvent the data retention scheme?

Download and use any or all of these tools, which can all be used to circumvent the Government's data retention scheme:

  • Use public Wi-Fi hotspots, which aren't covered by the data retention scheme. For example, use the Wi-Fi provided at a council hotspot, library, university (or Parliament House!)

  • Use a foreign-operated messaging service (which most messaging services are), such as Google chat, Twitter direct messages, Facebook messenger or Whatsapp.

    NB: Intelligence agencies will still be able to see if you are using these services, but Australia's data retention scheme won't be able to tell who you're messaging. (Also be mindful that the good folk at the NSA will still be able to see this.)

  • Use a foreign-operated email service, such as Gmail or Hotmail (which many Australians already do).

    NB: Again, intelligence agencies will still be able to see if you are using these services, but Australia's data retention scheme won't be able to tell who you're emailing. That being said, if you are emailing someone who uses an Australian-based email service, they will have access to their metadata – i.e. know you emailed them. (And again, be mindful that the good folk at the NSA will be able to see this.)

Yup, it's that easy. That's how ineffective the data retention scheme will be.

Now if you really want to get serious, here are some tools for those who really want to protect their privacy*:

*These are all perfectly legal and anyone can use them.

While you're at it, why not sign the pledge to "go dark"*?

You can let your friends know how they can circumvent the data retention scheme by using the hashtag #DarkAgainstData and tweeting your opposition to the scheme or sharing it on Facebook.

*We are, of course, using this term loosely.


To protest the Government's data retention scheme, while simultaneously showing just how ineffective it will be, given people can circumvent the scheme with relative ease.
Yes, the tools listed are all legal to use.

Even the Communications Minister himself has been doing the rounds encouraging people to use VPNs and encrypted messaging apps to circumvent the data retention laws. See here.
If you're planning to do something bad and don't want people to know about it, chances are you're already aware of these tools and using them.

The point is, if the data retention scheme is intended to catch criminals – why weren't these tools given proper scrutiny and accounted for when the Government drafted the data retention legislation?
Nope. There's a shocking lack of evidence that data retention helps keep the public safer.

Germany's data retention laws were declared unconstitutional, and a Parliamentary study found that they didn't help solve crimes – resulting only in a negligible 0.006% increase in crimes solved. The study found that "the relationship between ends and means is disproportionate".

Metadata is literally "data about data", but is a confusing and largely unhelpful term. Even the Attorney-General found it difficult to define.

In this context, it refers to information about communications, rather than the content of the communications themselves. However, in many cases this is an entirely false distinction, as demonstrated in this piece from iiNet.

Even if you accept there is a difference between the "metadata" and the "content" of communications, the collection of metadata, especially in bulk, is arguably more invasive than the the content.

As the former NSA Chief, Michael Hayden, infamously said "we kill people based on metadata".

The Court of Justice of the European Union noted in its April 2014, when it ruled that the EU Data Retention scheme was invalid, metadata:

"…may allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained, such as the habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other movements, the activities carried out, the social relationships of those persons and the social environment."

This campaign is being run in collaboration with:

Electronic Frontiers Australia logo NSWCCL logo Australian Privacy Foundation logo

By the way...

If you're on Twitter, you can
click here to tweet your thanks to the senators who voted against data retention.


Let your friends know you're going dark against data retention and ask them to join you.

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