You might have heard a lot of noise about the proposed data retention scheme in Australia. The Australian Government wants phone and Internet companies to keep ‘metadata’ on their customers for 2 years. But what is metadata, and what would the data retention scheme mean for you if it becomes law?
a set of data that describes and gives information about other data.
In other words, metadata is the who, when, where and how of your telecommunications, but not the what. In the case of Australia’s data retention scheme, metadata is not what you say on the phone or type in an email, it’s all the information created about that phone call or email.
In fact, there are six types of metadata that will be collected if the data retention scheme is passed into law.
We’ve created an infographic to illustrate these six types of metadata so that you can better understand what information would be collected about you.
So, what data won’t be collected?
Your passwords and personal identification numbers (PIN) won’t be collected.
Your web-browsing history, which is a list of the URLs or IP addresses of websites that you visit, won’t be collected.
How long will metadata be stored?
Which companies will collect metadata?
The data retention scheme will be mandatory for all Australian Internet Service Providers, telcos and social media sites.
Which companies won’t collect metadata?
Australia’s data retention scheme only applies to Australian companies, so metadata won’t be collected for the scheme by overseas companies.
Lots of people already use overseas services. A common example is “over the top” messaging services that use the internet rather than traditional phone channels to send messages (including Snapchat, Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter direct messaging, Facebook messenger and Google hangouts).
It’s worth remembering that most companies collect some metadata about their customers for their own records.
Anonymising internet browsing services such as The Onion Router (Tor) can minimise the amount of metadata collected about you.
Who will have access to my metadata?
‘Enforcement agencies’ will be able to access metadata without a warrant. These government agencies include the Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Are there any exceptions?
Yes. Government agencies wanting access to journalists’ metadata to find their sources would need to get a warrant.