iiNet On Data Retention: It's Not Right, It's Not Australian, We Don't Support It

If you've ever wanted to join an ISP that looks after the interests of its users, it might be time to think about switching to iiNet. Not only has the ISP fought the copyright lobby and won, but it has since given the film industry a solid wallop and now it's coming out harder than ever against mandatory data retention. iiNet's chief regulatory officer, Steve Dalby, hates it. Here's why.

In a blog post, iiNet's Steve Dalby outlined why he vehemently opposes data retention proposals, saying that metadata can reveal much more about a user than they think:

The data collected can be incredibly sensitive – it can reveal who your friends are, where you go and what websites you visit. Indeed, it may even tell more than the content of a phone call or an email. Recent research from Stanford University showed that when analysed this data may create a revealing profile of a person’s life including medical conditions, political and religious views, friends and associations.
Police say “If you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t be worried”. Personally I think that if you follow that dubious logic, we’d all be walking around naked. It’s not about being worried, or wanting to ‘hide’ anything. It’s about the right to decide what you keep private and what you allow to be shared. YOU should be the one to make that call, and that decision should stick until a warrant or something similar is issued to law enforcement agencies to seize your information.

Law enforcement agencies like the Australian Federal Police and spy agency ASIO have all been pining for data retention regulations, saying it will make it easier to catch criminals and collect evidence for a future prosecution.

Dalby doesn't buy that, saying that it scoops up the whole haystack because there might be a needle in there someday:

The focus of this data retention proposal is not crooks; it’s the 23 million law-abiding men, women and children that will go about their daily lives without ever bothering law enforcement. Those 23 million customers include my 93-year-old mum and my 12-year-old niece. We don’t believe that is either necessary or proportionate for law enforcement.
We’ve seen no evidence that justifies surveilling inoffensive customers on the chance that, two years later, some evidence might help an investigation. It’s the equivalent of collecting and storing every single haystack in the country, indexing and filing all the straws, keeping them safe for two years, just in case there’s a needle, somewhere. We don’t know if there’s a needle, but there might be.
I say forget spying on my mother and niece and get on with chasing the crooks.

Dalby also notes that the cost of such a regime is still unclear:

It is hard to measure exactly what this will all cost, but we expect that collecting and keeping every customer’s ‘metadata’ would require the construction of many new data centres, each storing petabytes (that’s 1 million megabytes!) of information at a cost of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. There is no suggestion that the government would pay these costs, so our customers will be expected to pick up these costs in the form of a new surveillance tax.
If they need someone to process the full set of metadata down to metadata-minus-content, then there is a significant cost to process the collected metadata and redact it. (Imagine a lot of people with thick black markers, blotting out the content – just like the government does with some Freedom-of-Information requests).

Check out the blog post for more on metadata and what it reveals about you. [iiNet]

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