April 13. Aussies! Make sure you don’t forget to mark that date on your calendars – it’s “National Get a VPN Day”.
In March 2015, a legislation was passed by the Parliament requiring telcos and ISPs to store customer metadata. These companies were given until April 13, 2017, to implement mandatory data retention obligations. However, despite widespread backlash from the public, the laws were passed and now the dreaded day is finally here.
Under the metadata retention act, service providers are required to log customer metadata for a minimum of two years. They will now be legally allowed to retain data such as the name and addresses of account holders; the date, time and duration of established communications; the recipient of those communications; as well as the exact location of equipment used for communications.
With the official deadline for ISPs and telcos to have appropriate systems installed to effectively handle the huge amounts of data running in and out, what does that mean for you as a customer or an internet user? Sadly, this directly translates into bidding farewell to online privacy in Australia. However, is there something you can do to make sure you are not stripped of your right to privacy on the web?
How to protect your privacy in Australia?
As mandatory data retention laws come into effect, Digital Rights Watch, a privacy advocate group, is asking all Australian citizens to mask their online trail by using a VPN and have also given the day another name.
"It's important that we mark this date – and pause to remember that a detailed picture of the private lives of Australian citizens is being collected by telecommunication companies on behalf of the government," said Tim Singleton Norton, Chair of Digital Rights Watch.
When video streaming service Netflix wasn’t yet available in Australia, people used VPNs to buy the service from overseas countries like the US. So, besides accessing their favorite content and censorship, surveillance from ISPs and telcos is giving citizens yet another reason to get a VPN, if they haven’t already.
“If the government wants to surveil its citizens, then we’ll do everything in our power to equip people to circumvent that surveillance. If it takes every Australian having to run their digital lives through a VPN for the government to recognise that, then so be it.”
As far as data protection is concerned, VPNs are a great tool to combat the threat of ISP surveillance as it acts as an intermediary between your computer/device and the internet. It masks your IP address and encrypts all data to prevent ISPs, websites and third-party agencies from collecting your data.