Total Metabullshit

As of right now, I’m once again saddened/annoyed/enraged (all at the same time) by the absolutely criminal decision that has gone through parliament today. Two magical words that both Britain and the US have figured out don’t work: data retention. The bill that went through today effectively calls for metadata to be stored for two years. The bill is an amendment to the Telecommunications Intercept and Access Act 1979. According to The Age, what it does is stretches the definition of telecommunications to include metadata and demands that ISPs retain this metadata and hand it over when requested to do so. The Sydney Morning Herald website had this to say as to why this was being put into place and one probable effect that it would have on Internet Users:

The Attorney-General’s Department says that anecdotal reporting from law-enforcement agencies suggests that, increasingly, their requests for metadata from internet and phone providers are not being met as carriers are no longer retaining the data requested.

Traditionally, some telcos have kept the data for analytics and billing purposes. But they say they are beginning to delete it as it takes up a lot of storage space, which can be costly if it’s not needed. One of Australia’s largest internet providers, iiNet Group, has said that if it was required to bear the costs of a data retention regime then customer internet bills could go up by $10 a month.

At the moment, the police are using metadata to do everything from catching suspects by pinpointing their location via their internet usage, to sending fines to illegal dumpers, to accessing the metadata of police cadets to bust them having sick days or relationships between cadets. Now, with that information above, can anyone else see a problem with metadata being retained? I sure as hell can and I don’t think it’s just me being paranoid this time around.

One of the reasons that this bothers me is that, for all the talking, there has not been a legal definition of metadata given for this to apply to. There have been widely recognised general definitions, but with Australian law as it stands at the moment, the best that we can do is “data about data.” While there have been statements along the lines of this not covering which websites a person visits (for example), you’ll excuse me if I don’t 100% believe a government that has the United Fucking Nations breathing down our back about the treatment of refugees.  There IS a reason given for there not being a legal definition of metadata. According to the Sydney Morning Herald article above:

One of the main reasons metadata hasn’t been defined in legislation is that law enforcement agencies do not want to restrict what they have access to as technology rapidly changes.

Let that sink in for a moment. Those last four words, “as technology rapidly changes” make this sound fair enough on the surface. What it doesn’t take into account is that with no legal definition of metadata in place, there is HUGE potential for all kinds of abuse of this piece of legislature. With the examples cited earlier, can you honestly see this not going pear shaped?

Another thing that bothers me is that there have been allowances made. For journalists. On the surface, this would seem like a win, but there is a Sydney Harbour Bridge sized hole in this. This protects journalists, not their sources. What this means is that a journalist can blow the cover off of all kinds of stuff, but the whistle-blowers that draw a journalist’s attention to what was uncovered? You can guess their place in the Fucker-Fuckee relationship.

Now, Tony Abbott felt the need to comment with this little gem:

“Well in the days when I was a journalist there were no metadata protections for journalists,”

Now this could either be
A, Abbott trying to mislead people via false equivalence, or
B, genuine stupidity on his part.

If you’re familiar with Australian politics so far, you’ll not be able to rule out option B.

For those not familiar with Internet culture (Hi Mum!), I’d like to point out that the scope of  metadata is VASTLY different to what this statement might lead some folks to believe. In the late eighties, when Mr Abbott was a journalist, metadata was “Yup, he made a phone call.” Nowadays, it tells you where a person was when they make a phone call, the phone numbers, the email addresses of both sender and receiver of an email, the location of a person when they use any kind of telecommunication, the length of time a person was online, when they were using a particular application. With all of that as just an example, can you see the difference between metadata then and now?

Mind you, this is the Prime Minister that compared the opposition leader, Bill Shorten to Joseph Goebbels, everyone’s favourite Nazi propaganda minister. If it seems to the world that you’re taking your leadership advice from Lex Luthor, then I’m sorry but you don’t get to call other people Nazis.

The Data retention is apparently being done in the name of tackling child sex abuse and terrorism. Were I sure for one moment that either of these things would be affected by the legislation being brought into play, then I would be all for it. The problem is that there are more and more countries coming forward saying that it doesn’t work. What is being put into place is a system that works under the premise that everybody is a potential criminal and needs to be watched. The rhetoric of “If you don’t have anything to hide then you won’t have a problem” simply doesn’t cut it here, especially when it’s being pushed by a man whose eligibility to even be Prime Minister in the first place has been called into question.

So at the moment, we have a lot of Australians looking at the possibility of using VPNs and other methods to get around the new legislation. We have people that have committed no crimes sweating because new legislation is infringing on parts of a person’s life in the name of, among other things, “counter-terrorism.” Counter-terrorism is one of the phrases that politicians love to use to justify laws that are nudging slowly toward fascism. Sure, your right to privacy is being taken away from you, but those people that might be out there are possibly up to something, somewhere, maybe, so we have to listen to everyone to find out what! There’s also the claim that this can be used in “child sex abuse” cases. This particular tactic is known as the “Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children” play. It’s only offered when politicians have so little faith in people buying into something that they need a kneejerk reaction.

Folks, this is what’s counting as “protecting Australian citizens” these days and that’s less comforting than it is disturbing. On that note, probably time for me to crash. Hmm… 3:30. Definitely time for me to crash.

Southern Howler, Signing Out.

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~ by southernhowler on March 20, 2015.

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