How To Protect Your Metadata With A VPN

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The Federal Government's Metadata Retention Scheme has now become compulsory for telcos and internet service providers in Australia. This means your metadata - including text messages, location information and internet connection details - will be stored for two years and available to Government agencies to access on request without a warrant.

If you value your privacy, you're going to need a virtual private network (VPN) to help mask your online activity. Here are some tips from the consumer protection group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA), along with the best guides from our archives.

According to the EFA, VPNs are one of the most effective tools for protecting privacy when using the internet due to the degree of anonymity they provide when accessing online services. They can also provide ordinary civilians protection against "eavesdropping and government surveillance".

"As with any industry, the quality of VPN services varies considerably, particularly in relation to privacy issues and people should therefore be well-informed before selecting a provider," the EFA explains.

Here are the EFA's top tips for choosing the right VPN for your needs:

  • What data does the VPN record? Is the VPN retaining web logs? Does the VPN know your IP address and the times that you connect to their servers? Also, what kind of advertising data does the VPN service store and does it hand that data over to third parties?
  • How long does the VPN store data? Nearly all VPNs will store some data in order to troubleshoot network issues. However, the duration of that storage plays a key role in terms of the privacy protection afforded to users. After all, if the data has been deleted, then it cannot be accessed by a third party. Ideally, a VPN should be wiping user data within hours of it being recorded. If a VPN is storing data for anything more than a few days then beware.
  • Read the privacy policy carefully. If you don't find the answers to your questions in their privacy policy then ask them directly, or steer clear.
  • What country are they based in? For example, you may want to avoid services based in Australia, UK, US, New Zealand or Canada (the so-called 'Five Eyes' countries, which have comprehensive intelligence-sharing arrangements in place). You may also want to avoid services based in countries with authoritarian governments.
  • What payment methods do they support? Using BitCoin and/or other digital currencies will provide you with an extra layer of anonymity

EFA is also calling for Australians to contact their local MP regarding the dangers of mandatory data retention - communicating to them the main points of concern:

  • All access to this data should require a warrant - not just for journalists' data (the only people currently protected). A majority of European Union countries require some form of independent, judicial authorisation for access to this sort of data, so there's no reason why Australians shouldn't enjoy the same protection.
  • It's important that additional agencies aren't added to the list that are allowed access to this data. The one good part of the data retention legislation is that it reduced the number of agencies able to access this data from literally hundreds to less than two dozen (Police and anti-corruption bodies mainly).
  • The two year retention period is unjustifiably long and must be reduced to at most six months.

Need more advice? The following guides should help to steer you in the right direction:

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What Is A VPN?

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The Biggest Misconceptions About VPNs

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The Five Best VPNs For 2017

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.

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Opera's Free Inbuilt VPN Rolls Out For Everyone Today

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.

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Comments

    ISP surveillance is now giving Aussies yet another reason to get a VPN if they don’t have one already. Using VPN is the most legitimate and the cheapest solution to protect your data from your ISP. A VPN works by encrypting your internet data and tunneling it through its own secure server. After connecting to a VPN, your ISP will only know that you connected to a VPN. What you did after that will be pretty much invisible.

    Last edited 21/04/17 8:53 pm

      Thanks shitty spam bot, You dont perhaps happen to work for Pure VPN? Ive seen a lot of your buddies on here. Should tell your boss its had the opposite effect. I am now avoiding PureVPN.

    I am not sure that still VPN protect your online connection because hackers are proactive and using top-notch software in snooping the data.

      Use HTTPS whenever you can. All they can see will be the domain and not much else.
      Even better, get a VPN.

    This is complete menace and atrocity towards internet users like myself. It's a no-brainer that we all have to use VPNs now to save our data and not just any VPN but some super fast ones https://www.reviewsdir.com/fastest-vpn-services/ as Security experts have given their verdict and VPNs are the only true way to encrypt your online communications.

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