Surveillance and Data Retention

Whenever your computer makes a connection online it makes a copy of the information you are accessing, which can be a negative thing because this connection becomes data that stays online forever (Mitew 2014). This data is stored in an aggregate for the purpose of surveillance, and as our lives become more permeated by the internet, we create even more data that can be extracted and aggregated (Mitew 2014).

This aggregation of data is terrifying to think about because it is stored in centralised and controlled databases. This idea is becoming more pertinent to the Australian public as the new Data Retention Law became active on 13 October 2015, which says your phone and internet communications – only to whom, when, where, and how you communicate will be recorded, the content of your communications are safe, for now – and must be retained for the next two years by service providers.

In an article by Max Chalmers, embedded tweets from Edward Snowden tell us that “surveillance is not about safety, it’s about power. It’s about control.” This may well be true, as an article by Robin Doherty lists a series of agencies that will be able to access our data without seeking warrants. Although not listed, should we be worried about the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), a member of the ‘Five Eyes,’ being later included?

Doherty’s article also provides some useful links to technology that will allow the public to protect their phone and internet communications. Some examples include: TextSecure, RedPhone, and IPVanish.


Mitew, T 2014, Dark Fiber: Hackers, Botnets, Cyberwar [Part 1], Online Video, YouTube, viewed 14 October 2015,

SamsungTomorrow 2014, Samsung Introduces the Galaxy K zoom, a New Camera Specialized-Smartphone, Image, Flickr, viewed and modified 14 October 2015,


8 thoughts on “Surveillance and Data Retention

  1. Regardless of what the government claims, metadata aggregates can actually reveal a frightening amount of detail about our activities. Take for example this ABC online quiz that tracks the actions of one of their reporters (available here: Based on the graphed data, it is incredibly easy to work out who the reporter is talking to, and the general nature of the conversation (eg. whether the nature of the communication is work or leisure etc). Whilst this sounds pretty innocent, imagine if this information made its way into the wrong hands, or if it was misinterpreted. The outcomes could be incredibly dangerous, if not completely catastrophic for some people (eg. victims of domestic violence). I think that as Netizens we assume we have a lot more privacy than we actually do, and it is critically important that we stay informed, remain vigilant and protest for our right for privacy.

  2. Hi Jacob,

    I am surprised to hear about the ‘Five Eyes’ network. It is scary to think that our private information can be shared between these member countries.

    I found a really interesting article ( that discusses how over a 12-month period, Australians had their private internet data read more than people in the UK. While the ASD cannot spy on communications made by Australians in Australia, it can do so when communication is made outside of Australia. Yet according to the ABC, almost every Google and Facebook server is located offshore. Go figure!

    Supporters of the Government’s data retention policy argue that “those with nothing to hide have nothing to fear”. This just proves how poorly defended our privacy rights are. The argument implies guilt, not the right to privacy. And it is not just government agencies accessing our data under data retention laws that we should be concerned about. What about rogue staff of internet service providers, or hackers, or private litigants? We are citizens, not suspects under the government’s so-called “pre-criminal investigation”. And as for the surveillance for safety argument, mass surveillance did not stop the Sydney siege, the Boston marathon bombings or the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in France. We should not need to have to justify the existence of private spaces – spaces where we are hidden from the all-seeing state. Privacy is the citadel of personal freedom. We should not need to defend our rights to it.

  3. The way you have structured this blog post is great, you provide an in depth introduction, supported by further research allowing readers to stretch their knowledge on the topic. I especially like the meme you created it reinforces the ‘realness’ of it. I agree that aggregation of data can be terrifying. But it is also nessersary for governments to provide statistics, and follow up on crime online, and to prevent crime.

  4. Hi Jacob,

    Another great post. You not only weave in the information learnt in this week’s seminars, but you have also done quite a lot of research in terms of what is happening in the current state with regards to data retention. You have definitely educated me in terms of the agencies that have access to my data and its potential uses. You also raise a good point when you mention Snowden’s idea of control. These themes of power and control have been recurrent themes throughout this whole semester and have been proliferated by the internet and other IT. Although your post has scared the crap out of me in terms of how much of my information is being stored, I now have some indication to what extent.

  5. Pre-criminal investigations is one way the government convinces us that collecting and saving this data is beneficial for our safety. The mentality that if you haven’t done anything wrong, you don’t have to worry, is also disjointed and you have pointed this out in your own example.

    What are your opinions on privacy and data retention?

    Here is an article with a pretty funny video that outlines the laws and their implications on people.

  6. With your piece one thing stood at to me the most, “surveillance is not about safety, it’s about power. It’s about control.”(Edward Snowden Quote) I never really thought of it in this way, are we protecting ourselves or helping the killers and bullies out? We generate so much data and action in our everyday lives that we begin to forget that it can be all tracked down to us in one way or another. I enjoyed that you put in relevant laws as well that lets us see how Australia works around the topic. Good work and keep it up!

  7. This post makes me feel like the world is never safe but it is controlled and manipulated; thus, things go well, and we think we are living in a safer place than before. Putting personal and private data and photos online, thinking all will be alright because we store them in our private account. But we forget everything we do on the internet can be tracked and those professional hackers can easily hack into our personal information that we stored in the internet for all kind of purposes. Perhaps we think we are hardly the target of those hacktivist groups; but once our privacy has been violated, then only we know how it tastes like. Great post anyway!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s