from the but-here's-how-to-avoid-them dept
As we reported earlier this year, Australia put in place a ridiculous data retention law that requires ISPs to store all sorts of information on users just in case the government would like to snoop through it. The main force behind the law, Attorney General George Brandis, is so clueless that he clearly did not understand the details when he was quizzed about it. Here’s a brief excerpt from an interview he did last year:
Brandis: Well, what we’ll be able… what the security agencies want to know… to be retained… is the… is the electronic address of the website that the web user is visiting.
Host: So it does tell you the website.
Brandis: Well… well… it tells you the address of the website.
Host: That’s the website, isn’t it? It tells you what website you’ve been to.
Brandis: Well, when… when you visit a website you… you know, people browse from one thing to the next and… and… that browsing history won’t be retained or… or… or… there won’t be any capacity to access that.
Host: Excuse my confusion here, but if you are retaining the web address, you are retaining the website, aren’t you?
Brandis: Well… the… every website has an electronic address, right?
Host: And that’s recorded.
Brandis: And… um… whether there’s a connection… when a connection is made between one computer terminal and a web address, that fact and the time of the connection, and the duration of the connection, is what we mean by metadata, in that context.
Host: But… that is… telling you… where… I’ve been on the web.
Brandis: Well, it… it… it… it… it… it… it records what web… what at… what electronic web address has been accessed.
Host: I don’t see the difference between that and what website I’ve visited.
Brandis: Well, when you go to a website, commonly, you will go from one web page to another, from one link to another to another, within that website. That’s not what we’re interested in.
As of the beginning of this week, that law is now in effect. And… it sounds like the implementation is going just about as cleanly as you might imagine given Brandis’ statements above. A report from ITNews in Australia suggests that the Attorney General’s office is a complete mess, and ISPs aren’t at all sure what they’re supposed to be doing right now. Yes, the law requires many to start collecting lots of information, but smaller ISPs can apply to the Attorney General for exemptions or extended timelines for implementation, and it appears many of them have (of course, the Attorney General’s office refuses to reveal how many). ITNews surveyed a bunch of ISPs, with many saying they had sent in a “data retention implementation plan (DRIP)” that would allow them to delay implementation — but the majority of them hadn’t heard anything back, so they have no idea if their plan was accepted or not:
Around 58 percent of Comms Alliance survey respondents said they had submitted a DRIP to the AGD, while 23 percent more said they would soon. Just 19 percent said they had not.
However, a staggering 76 percent of those that had submitted a DRIP claimed they had not yet heard back from the AGD as to whether it had been approved.
A total of 9 percent had received approved DRIPs, and around 14 percent said final approval was still pending
Gee, it almost sounds like Brandis’ office is dealing with a bit of information overload and doesn’t know how to deal with it. Doesn’t that seem like a great situation to now add much more data to? Meanwhile, this whole scheme — of which there is no evidence that it will be even remotely useful — is going to cost everyone hundreds of millions of dollars. The government is paying for some of it (meaning taxpayer funds) while expecting the rest to be covered by increasing ISP fees. In short: everyone in Australia now has to pay lots more money for an incompetent government agency to more easily spy on them. How nice.
It seems like the only sensible response has come from Senator Scott Ludlam, who fought hard against the data retention plan. He’s now telling people to encrypt their data and to use VPNs and Tor to hide from the government.
Filed Under: australia, data retention, drip, george brandis, isps