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A letter to my local Member of Parliament about Mandatory Data Retention

Here is a letter I will be sending to my local Member of Parliament, Mr Jason Wood.

Dear Mr Wood,

I write regarding the Mandatory Data Retention bill, Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014 and would like you to clarify your position.

I have deep concerns about the proposed scheme and request that you vote against it in Parliament.

My first concern is that metadata is not adequately defined in the proposed legislation. Moreover, the Attorney General and Minister for Communications have repeatedly failed to define metadata. If the most senior members of your government cannot explain what metadata is, they’re very unlikely to craft good policy in relation to communications, privacy, security, and digital business.

If my electronic timeline can be tracked over a 2 year period and my movements and relationships be accurately reconstructed, my privacy has been infringed by the State. Comparisons to existing schemes that refer to phone data retention are flawed, as in a digital world all my private activities can be tracked via a smartphone that allows for movement as well as messaging to be tracked.

As a member of the Liberal party, you are no doubt familiar with your federal platform, which recognises that our quality of life in Australia depends on “protecting personal privacy”. I fail to see how the data retention laws site with your worthy privacy principals.

Can you please clarify?

The classic response to objections to data retention is that as former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt said, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

This is, respectfully, garbage. Regardless, of what I want to hide or not hide, I have the right to privacy from the government, my employers, my family, my insurance company, my local member of parliament, and my ISP; from anyone.

As Michael Bradley recently pointed out in an article for ABC’s The Drum (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-10/bradley-the-case-for-data-retention-still-hasnt-been-made/6075684), metadata could also be used in civil complaints.

Then there is the national security question: The Prime Minister has claimed that the threat from terrorists justifies the request from our national security agencies for more metadata to prevent incidents like the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Lindt Café hostage crisis. There is no evidence that additional metadata would have prevented these incidents. Mons Monis, the hostage taker in the Lindt Café crisis was on bail and the Charlie Hebdo shooters were under surveillance yet in both cases the additonal information afforded to security agencies and police were not effective. In the case of Mons Monis, 18 separate reports were made to the national security hotline and yet, 3 people died. Hardly a convincing case for mandatory data retention.

If security is such an issue, why don’t warrants have to be obtained before accessing the data? It doesn’t make sense.

The Prime Minister has said the costs of implementing the scheme could amount to approximately $400 million annually. This is an unreasonable impost on consumers at the time when your own cabinet members are talking up a budget crisis.

Not only is the approach flawed; there are easy ways to avoid metadata retention by using a Virtual Private Network, also known as a VPN. These services are legal, easily affordable, and can provide additional privacy and security. I will be considering using one should the bill be passed into law.

I urge you to vote against the bill and take a stand for freedom of privacy, freedom of movement, and less government interference into people’s lives.

Yours Faithfully,
Jon Stribling

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