Can you hide from the government's new data collection regime?

Tuesday 18 April 2017
Nic Crowther's picture
Co Editor
The Shaker

Last Thursday 13 April the implementation phase of Australia’s new datas collection regime came to an end. This means that all internet Service providers (ISPs) are now required to store specific user data for a minimum of two years.

There are also new laws around the way this data can be used. Full details are available from this factsheet, or the seemingly archaic Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.

However, regardless of whether you are looking to protect your own communications, or those of your business, there are a few options that will minimise the amount of data captured by ISPs as part of the process.



Use a secure app for mobile communications

Even the Prime Minister is a fan of using secure apps and the reason is simple : for someone involved in national security, it’s essential to ensure that communications are safe from prying eyes.

By using end-to-end encryption, apps such as WhatsApp or Wickr can carry your comms in a highly secure way. In fact, the security is so strong that even the companies that own the apps are unable to decode the contents of the messages.



As you can imagine, government HATES this, and recently there have been moves to demand access. It’s no surprise that tech companies are unenthusiastic about relenting their competitive advantage, and you can bet that as soon as on company technology that another will rise in its place. Consumers are very good at quickly switching to whatever works best for them

WhatsApp is great for instant messaging – both voice and text. Wickr has the added advantage of storing up to 5GB of files in a secure environment for free. Both apps offer desktop versions to keep the conversation moving while you’re in the office.



Get a VPN for your browser use

In Australia, any time that you open your laptop or search the web on your phone the details are captured under the data retention regime.

The simplest way to avoid eavesdropping is to encrypt all your activity. A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) is what you need to prevent your data being read by government or anyone else who might be interested in your communications.

There are plenty of options available. Services such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and KeepSolidVPN are highly rated by tech blogs and magazines.



Don’t Use Facebook or Google services

These giants of the online world are big for one reason: they mine your data for the benefit of selling ads.

Forget everything that Zuck says about Facebook building global communities, or Google’s work on driverless cars and biotech. Their stock-in-trade is YOU - including your status updates, Messenger chats and search engine results.

Everything you do on Facebook is recorded for their benefit. By signing into Google in Android or a chrome browser means that all your emails and searches are logged in a folder with your name on it.

If you must use Facebook, then create a fake name account via a throwaway web-based mail client. Be careful what you say and what you upload, though, and ensure you use a VPN at the same time.

As for Android phones, toss them in the bin and buy an iPhone.



Keep up-to-date on security

It doesn’t take much to do a quick stocktake to assess the security of your communications. We recommend you look across all your platforms at least once a month to see where you might be vulnerable. With a bit of Googling and some recommendations from trusted sites, even a beginner can make great strides in protecting their data from governments and other companies.