Data Retention Is Here; What You Need To Know
Everywhere in Australia, people are waking up to a new day and a new policy. It is finally zero hour for the new data retention policy and some may still be feeling confused about it. It’s only understandable. So, here are some basic facts you need to keep in mind.
For starters, the data being retained and kept under tight surveillance are metadata. According to the National Information Standards Organization, metadata refers to information that may explain, locate, describe or manage a source of information. In this regard, it essentially provides “information about information.” Moreover, metadata is mainly categorized into three types. There’s the descriptive metadata used for identification or discovering something. And then there’s the structural metadata that looks into how a page may be organized. Finally, there’s the administrative metadata that provides technical information on a resource, such as the date it was created and how it was created. Moreover, the way metadata works is that it ensures that data is accessible in the future.
For the Australian government, they believe metadata is important for them to be able to identify suspects in a timely manner while also being able to keep the wrong person from being suspected. Moreover, it can also help support a warrant and provide evidence during prosecutions.
According to the Australian Government Attorney-General’s Department, telecommunications companies are actually required to retain a “limited set of metadata” in their records for two years. This is because this much time may be needed to fully investigate cases involving organized crime, public corruption, financial crime, espionage and terrorism. Moreover, some other major crimes are also not brought to the attention of authorities after they have occurred and the 2-year retention period will mean that they can still be investigated long after they have happened.
As for your personal data that will be stored for data retention, the Attorney General’s office says retention will only involve data pertaining to the who, when, where and how of your communications. The substance (the what) of the communications will not be monitored here. This means that for phone calls, the metadata to be stored will involve the phone numbers of people who communicate with as well as the length of communications. Meanwhile, metadata to be monitored for online activities will include email addresses and time and dates when they were sent.
It must be noted that the Australian Government has not required for anyone’s web-browsing history to be monitored. Essentially, privacy is still possible in the data retention age.