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Data Retention: What's Recorded In A 24-Hour Period

Close up of a woman having troubles waking up
Geber86 via Getty Images
Close up of a woman having troubles waking up

Your first 24 hours with the Mandatory Data Retention Scheme starts Tuesday and this is what your day will look like for those watching.


You're online from the moment you're awake. Picture: MINERVA STUDIO VIA GETTY IMAGES

First light comes from your glowing phone screen as the alarm goes off in the dark.

Read Facebook and Instagram, check the weather, head to YouTube and play a song while you shower.

WHAT’S RECORDED: Telcos aren’t going to keep a record of your wake-up time or the song you played in the shower but there will be pings of your phone’s approximate location as you access the internet to check Facebook.

In other words, your address -- or the rough address of the person you’re sleeping beside -- is now recorded, and will be kept by telcos for two years.


No one's looking, Google something embarrassing. Picture: IMAGES BY TANG MING TUNG VIA GETTY IMAGES

On the commute to work, read the news (on the HuffPost app, of course).

Google something embarrassing.

Now one of the arguments about data retention is that people who have nothing to hide shouldn’t be concerned.

What if you haven’t done anything that threatens national security, but you did do something embarrassing like, say, Googling ‘Justin Bieber nude photo’ last week?

You’re not the only one with embarrassing searches. Type ‘I think I have’ into Google and autofill provides the options: depression, anxiety, ADHD, worms and cancer.

WHAT’S RECORDED: The new laws don’t demand web-browsing history be recorded, so your private Bieber browsing is safe. There are concerns, however, that your metadata records could be hacked and cross-referenced with say, your Google or Facebook account to create a disturbingly accurate picture of who you are -- but this is just speculation.


Some data will be collected from work emails. Picture: THOMAS BARWICK VIA GETTY IMAGES

At work, send a series of boring emails to your colleagues.

Update your Linkedin account with information like your workplace, phone number and a photo.

Open the Medicare app to print receipt from an appointment you had yesterday.

WHAT’S RECORDED: Every email you send will have some information recorded about it. Not your message, but your address, the recipients’ address and the time it was sent. Think about that -- every single email. Even your mum’s funny chain email that was sent to 45 recipients.

If police want to see the content of said emails, they need a warrant.

Again, your LinkedIn information won’t be recorded as part of your browsing history, but there’s a risk of cross referencing publicly available information on your LinkedIn with stolen metadata records.

As for government-stored information like Medicare, these reforms will tighten the current privacy protections by limiting the range of agencies that can access telecommunications data.


The metadata collected when you socialise on your phone. Picture: BETSIE VAN DER MEER VIA GETTY IMAGES

Get directions to a pub for lunch with a friend. Use Google Maps to get there and leave your phone sitting idle on the table as you chat candidly about last weekend’s escapades.

Take a photo of the two of you together and put it on Instagram.

Jump on Tinder to show the latest Mr or Mrs (swipe) Right. Google stalk them.

Your friend picks up the bill so jump on your banking app and transfer money their way.

WHAT’S RECORDED: If you’re concerned about map data being saved (which it isn’t) think about this -- every time you go anywhere, metadata is recorded about your location. As long as you’ve accessed the internet, there’s now a record of where you work and where you’re having lunch.

The photo you took is not saved and as for your phone sitting idly while you gossip, informers like U.S. former CIA employee Edward Snowden say agencies can listen in on any phone at any time, but there’s no evidence of this in Australia.

Your banking information is as safe as it’s ever been.


Catch up with your mum. Picture: PAUL BRADBURY VIA GETTY IMAGES

On the way home, call your mum to catch up.

Open messaging app Whatsapp and chat with your friends about planning a dinner party this weekend.

WHAT’S RECORDED: Now your metadata file will have a record of your phone call from your number to your mum’s, the time of day, and the duration of the call.

Law enforcement and security agencies can’t access this metadata without a good cause.



It’s time to get X-rated. You’re an adult with desires and fantasies -- indulge them at Pornhub or somewhere more exotic. End up in a weird fetishist corner of the internet checking out stuff you’re not proud of.

Do something illegal -- maybe you smoke pot and email your dealer. Maybe you have a thing for replica weapons and you buy them online. Maybe you download The Martian from a pirate website.

Do something red-flag worthy -- maybe you are a gentle, law-abiding citizen who has a morbid fascination with terrorism and you go browsing for IS-related videos and information. Maybe you google ‘how to fight in Syria for IS’.

Perhaps you’re a Breaking Bad fan and you want the exact recipe for making meth, or a bomb.

Maybe you’re writing a crime novel and you spend an hour investigating how to kill someone and dispose of the body.

WHAT’S RECORDED: Your browsing history is not recorded but when it comes to downloading a video, the volume of your download is.

Whether your browsing history is illegal or a potential concern to national security, this particular piece of legislation does not require anything be recorded. This begs the question -- what's the point if red-flag information isn't recorded?

The Attorney-General's office points out metadata is used in: "almost every criminal investigation to solve crimes such as murder, terrorism, sexual assault and kidnapping.

"The international experience is that data retention is particularly important for complex and long-running investigations".

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