Metadata legislation will affect us all

METADATA. For many Australians, you can only wonder if they fully understand what the term means and how it will soon affect them.

In short, metadata is the information you leave behind when you make a phone call or send an email. In essence, it’s the number you call, the location you call it from, and how long you spoke for. It’s not what was said during the call.

Under the federal government’s metadata legislation, which was due to come into effect yesterday, it will mean that this information will be stored for two years by your telco, and will be freely available to law-enforcement agencies, who will no longer require a warrant to access this information – as was the case previously.

The government says the laws will help protect us against terrorist activities, cyber attacks and other crimes such as child exploitation.

Not surprisingly, civil libertarians are up in arms because there will be no judicial oversight when accessing our metadata. Joe and Joanne Average may feel somewhat violated by those in authority having access to this type of personal information.

And as the country’s new data retention laws come into effect, there remain many obvious, unanswered questions.

Questions such as: How will Australia’s telcos collect and store this information?

While ISPs have had six months to plan for the introduction of the metadata laws, more than 80 per cent say they’re simply not ready and won’t be in a position to collect and encrypt the data as required by law.

That’s a staggering and somewhat frightening figure, particularly when you fully consider the word “encrypt”.

If the information isn’t encrypted correctly, it is more susceptible to being hacked or accessed illegally.

In a world where almost all our personal information is already stored online, digital security is incredibly important. Having even more of our private details open to cyber criminals is less than ideal.

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