National VPN Day

So today in Australia marks “National VPN day” or the day (13th April 2017) that was mandated as the deadline where metadata retention becomes mandatory. And what seems to annoy me the most is the sentiment “if I’m not doing anything wrong, this doesn’t affect me. Right?”

Actually, no. This goes beyond knowing what websites that you are visiting. And whilst some people have jokingly mentioned “Well the government better be interested in my porn history” it’s more than that.

Lets start out, what is Metadata? Or rather, what ISN’T Metadata? Metadata isn’t the individual contents of the websites that you are visiting. For instance, metadata isn’t the contents of your Facebook conversation with your siblings letting them know that you are favourite child cause mum said so whilst their back is turned. However, what is left over from that is a digital footprint.

So what IS metadata? Well in the context above, it’s the fact that you accessed the facebook messenger website, from an IP address (kinda like a calling telephone number) and in the digital age, probably a duration and how much data was transmitted in that session.

So if they can’t see what I’m writing and viewing, I’m still safe right? I’m afraid not. Metadata still links you to the data around you. So despite not being able to read your facebook conversations, the telcos and ISPs still know you were on facebook or watching Netflix at 8pm on a Thursday night, instead of being out at the club that your friends invited you to.

So I’m still doing nothing wrong, so it doesn’t affect me right? Nope, wrong again. Would you publish your phone number online for all of facebook to see if you had done nothing wrong? I don’t think so. Why? Because random creepy people could call you. So why would you give your information to the government (and other agencies) when you have no choice? And if something like this (article linked via the words “like this”) could happen where they “Accidentally published personal records”, what stops them from publishing yours accidentally?

And worse than this, it’s not just your internet history. Telcos keep tabs on you too. So if you don’t mind that the government (and others) having access to where you live, work and relax, then that’s fine, but keep in mind that if the government has this information, who else has this information too? A crazy ex? 4chan? Someone with a grudge? Telemarketers?

I’m all for catching the bad guys, but don’t do it against a guise that is way too wide a net.