Last year, the Australian government released a partially-redacted list of Commonwealth agencies that have applied for access to metadata retained by Australia's telecommunications providers as part of the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act. (This information was only released in response to a Freedom of Information request.)
There are over five dozen government entities that want to look through your mobile, internet and home phone records, ostensibly to uncover criminal activity.
Data retention has been in force in Australia since October 2015, when the law to enable it passed our Senate by a majority of 43 votes to 16. While telcos are required to store customer data for a minimum of two years for access by registered and sanctioned agencies, there is ongoing confusion over the requirements for that retention.
There are somewhere between 250 and over 500 internet service providers in Australia — the exact number is unknown, as there is no licensing scheme in place or required. Each of those ISPs is required to retain data, but the onus on them to do so is not equal — smaller ISPs bear more financial burden in doing so.
Proper implementation of the data retention scheme even for larger companies is likely at least a year away, according to Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton. Australia's largest ISP, Telstra, applied for an 18 month extension on the implementation to work out how to integrate such a broad retention scheme into its existing systems.
Although the precise nature of Australia's metadata retention is unclear, it's thought to extend to telecommunications users' personal details, records of the IP addresses used by their devices, and the broad details of the websites that they access — not the content of the communication itself, but the record that the communication took place. Approved agencies can access stored metadata without having to get a warrant beforehand.
Here's the full list, including the jurisdiction of those agencies:
- Australian Financial Security Authority, Commonwealth
- Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), Commonwealth
- Australian Postal Corporation, Commonwealth
- Australian Taxation Office, Commonwealth
- Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Commonwealth
- Civil Aviation, Safety Authority (CASA), Commonwealth
- Clean Energy Regulator, Commonwealth
- Department of Agriculture, Commonwealth
- Department of Defence (ADFIS and IGD), Commonwealth
- Department of the Environment, Commonwealth
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Commonwealth
- Department of Health, Commonwealth
- Department of Human Services, Commonwealth
- Department of Social Services, Commonwealth
- Fair Work Building and Construction, Commonwealth
- National Measurement Institute, Commonwealth
- ACT Revenue Office, ACT
- Access Canberra (Department of Treasury and Economic Development), ACT
- Bankstown City Council, NSW
- Consumer Affairs, VIC
- Consumer, Building and Occupational Services (Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading - Department of Justice), TAS
- Consumer and Business Services, SA
- Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, QLD
- Department of Commerce, WA
- Department of Corrective Services, WA
- Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, QLD
- Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (Fisheries), VIC
- Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, VIC
- Department of Environment Regulation, WA
- Department of Fisheries, WA
- Department of Justice and Regulation (Consumer Affairs), VIC
- Department of Justice and Regulation (Sheriff of Victoria), VIC
- Department of Mines and Petroleum, WA
- Department of Primary Industries (Fisheries), NSW
- Environment Protection Authority, SA
- Greyhound Racing Victoria, VIC
- Harness Racing New South Wales, NSW
- Health Care Complaints Commission, NSW
- Legal Services Board, VIC
- NSW Environment Protection Authority, NSW
- NSW Fair Trading, NSW
- Office of Environment & Heritage, NSW
- Office of Fair Trading (Department of Justice And Attorney-General Office of the Director General), QLD
- Office of State Revenue, NSW
- Office of State Revenue, QLD
- Office of the Racing Integrity Commissioner, VIC
- Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA), SA
- Queensland Building and Construction Commission, QLD
- Racing and Wagering Western Australia, WA
- Racing NSW, NSW
- Racing Queensland, QLD
- Roads and Maritime Serices NSW, NSW
- Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), VIC
- State Revenue Office, VIC
- Taxi Services Commission, VIC
- RevenueSA, SA
- Victorian WorkSafe Authority, VIC
Four agencies have also been redacted from the document under Section 47b as well — their disclosure would be "contrary to the public interest" — for a total of 61 government entities that have applied for ongoing access to the telecommunications data of Australian citizens and residents.
That's a lot.
An easy quick-fix to this situation is to invest in a reliable virtual private network (VPN). While by no means foolproof, a VPN does provide some level of protection against government snooping. If you're not sure where to start with VPNs, these guides should help to steer you in the right direction:
Not all virtual private networks (VPNs) are created equal. Some keep logs, some cap your traffic, some don't work on mobile, some don't work at all. This is what you need to know about choosing a VPN provider, as well as a few recommendations to get you started.
If you're concerned about your privacy when browsing the internet, a virtual private network (VPN) is the best way to tell any snoopers to shove off. There's a problem though. VPNs are notoriously shady, are more complicated than they look, they're unregulated, and can be more of a security risk than they're worth if you don't set them up correctly.
We last updated our list of best VPN providers in 2014, but a lot has changed since then. With Netflix blocking VPNs and privacy becoming more of a concern than ever, the parameters of a good VPN for Aussie users have shifted. Some popular choices have fallen out of favour of late, so we've had a look at what VPN users in Australia are recommending now and for the year ahead.
Windows/Mac/Linux. A few months ago, Opera launched its own free, built-in VPN, but you could only get it if you manually enabled it in the dev version of the browser. Now, it's available for everyone in the stable version of Opera.
[Via Right To Know]
This article originally appeared on Gizmodo Australia