That Time When Probably Malcolm Turnbull Showed Maybe The AFP What A VPN Was Because Data Retention

It's no secret that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull hates the Government's plan for data retention. He hated it when it was Labor's plan in 2012, and he hates it now. I imagine he especially hates how it was explained by the architect of the solution, Attorney General George Brandis. Behind the scenes though, the fight for the privacy of Australia's internet users rages. According to a new interview with Liberal Democrats Senator, David Leyonhjelm, a Minister matching Turnbull's description stormed into a meeting and showed them exactly why data retention was a stupid idea.

Leyonhjelm, a noted Libertarian, spoke to Reason Magazine in the US about a variety of topics, including data retention, relaying the story about how maybe Turnbull taught Australian law enforcement agencies about what VPNs were:

(emphasis added)

Reason: What is the public response, compared to America, where this been quite a bit of outrage over whether the NSA or the FBI or the CIA can use the Internet to snoop on its citizens? Are you getting a similar response in Australia?
Leyonhjelm: It's hard to tell what the public generally is thinking yet. I don't think they've quite woken up to it.
The media is skeptical. There are some commentators who are saying, "Well, it's pretty obvious these people from Australia who are going over there to Iraq are dangerous; therefore, we should give the agencies any power they want." That school of thought can be found. But they're just one voice. The more common voice is, "This is risky." They want the agencies to justify why they need extended powers, why they aren't capable of dealing with this threat with their current powers. And we don't like be snooped on. So my feeling is that the government is going to back away from it.
The bigger debate—there are a couple of worrying elements. One is legislation that's been introduced to parliament to make it an offense to report on anything that our ASIO is up to. That's our domestic spying agency. It's kind of a legal cover for them to do anything they like and be as incompetent as they like and it can't be publicly reported. There's quite a bit of pushback starting to gather on that one.
The other one that's causing a fair bit of grief is a metadata retention plan, the equivalent of what your NSA does. We don't have metadata retention at the moment and the agencies have been saying, "Oh, well we should have it. You can't use it if you haven't got it," sort of thing. But I spoke to one of the ministers last week about this because he does know what "metadata" means—he knows quite a lot about the Internet and how it works—He said to me people who are asking for this data, people who are thinking this is a good idea, actually have no idea what they're asking for. They don't know what they're going to do with it. They don't know what the implications of requiring it are. They haven't really thought this through.
He gave them a demonstration on a VPN [virtual private network] and said, "By my IP address, tell me what you can find out about me now." And they had no idea there was such a thing as a VPN. It indicates to me that these people are not well-informed enough to make these kinds of decisions. As it stands, it may be that the government may only require the Internet companies to store the IP address of the originating Internet use, so they'll know what computer you're from and what IP you're working from, which is not a lot different from keeping a record of the phone you're calling from. So if that's the case, it's probably not going to pose too much alarm. He's a minister and he knows what he's talking about. But he's surrounded by people who don't know what they're talking about who think that they need something more. We don't know yet where this will end up. It does have the potential to be very dangerous.

Well then.

Obviously, Leyonhjelm doesn't explicitly name names, but I think we all have sharp enough mental pencils in which to shade inside the lines he's drawn for us.

Good to know that (most of) our lawmakers really don't know a thing about how the internet works.

Image: Malcolm Turnbull



    I'd love it if politicians could just say what they think.
    Brandis: "Not web-surfing, internet address, not history... ah ah ah..."
    Turnbull: "lol shut it you fat mess. Nobody says web-surfing."

    ASIO: "We need metadata"
    Turnbull: "lol have you idiots heard of a VPN? Noobs."

      I swear to god, if I ever take enough knocks to the head that I lose my general sanity and run for office, one of the conditions of running would be, "Tell no lies, no equivocation, answer all questions." Ask a real question, get a real answer. This shit never happens, why does it not happen?

        Small lie upon small lie for years. We're at a stage now where neither party is honest about anything. If they're honest, the other party will just lie, make themselves sound better and win. Like... oh, I don't know... the Libs at the last election.
        I don't know how it would be managed but forcing every party to be 100% transparent would be a godsend for this country.

          Metadata should be stored... on people in public office.
          That'd sort this out really quickly.

            That would be amusing. It'd never happen - but it'd be amusing to see the reaction.

              After all, if they have nothing to hide, there's no reason they shouldn't want strangers looking at it.

          I think as part of being inducted into government/polotics you should have to take an oath. Similar to court.
          Do you swear during your time to serve the people of your country that you will be open, honest and transparent in all your dealings. answer every question asked of you in the most honest way. and not tell any lie knowing that it is at all in any way untrue.

          If found guilty of knowingly lying the punishment for them should be similar to lying on the stand and they should get 3 years.. imagine that. Now when you lie there is a punishment.. if I lie to police there is a punishment.. If I lie to the government there is a punishment

          Why do the police and government in turn get to lie to it's people?

      Perhaps when someone sends him an email with a spoofed "from address" and an innocuous looking link to an inappropriate web site (that he clicks on) someone like him might understand the unfairness of it all.

    Link at the bottom of the article is broken.

    EDIT: Fixed now.

    Last edited 15/08/14 2:23 pm

    TBH, if Turnbull was leader of the LNP, I probably would've voted for him. I may not like the party, but he's the only politician who at least seems like he actually knows what he's talking about.

      And I'm still of the belief that the only reason the governement is continuing on with the NBN despite being vastly inferior to to labor's version is because of turnbal just screaming over and over and over that NBN is actualy something that country desperatly needs

        Anyone who knows even one Telstra tech, let alone many, is keenly, horrifyingly aware of how close the current infrastructure is to collapsing. No money's being spent on it, copper's too expensive and rare, and the fixes we have right now are just patch-jobs which are failing more and more. Telstra are doing deals all over the place to incentivize (to a frankly absurd extent) uptake of their VOIP.

      I feel similarly, it's really hard to tell how much of the shit around the NBN is actually his personal opinion and how much is just the fucked up LNP policies he's obligated to shill. He seems far too sane and rational to truly believe in a lot of that stuff.

    Poor Malcolm... the number of facepalms he must be giving to himself in this job...

    Sadly, he's now stuck with the n00bs in the party with no option to kick them out other than waiting for them to leave :p

    these people are not well-informed enough to make these kinds of decisions.

    As is the case when parliament is legislating anything in the tech sector.

      Or probably just anything.

        I'd say they're pretty experienced with greed and self preservation at the expense of EVERYONE to legislate salary increases for themselves.

          I'm still struggling to understand how politicians get to decide their own salary.
          "We do what we want and pay ourselves what we want, all at your expense" - Federal Government of Australia

            Actually, they hire 'independent' consultants to do an analysis for them, then they 'humbly accept' the findings. Of the people who they paid.

    I'm still trying to decipher what the title is about...

      It's being as ambigious as the story related by Leyonhjelm. Since names can't be named, "probably" and "maybe" are being used to suggest what really happens.

      You can read the title as: That Time When (Probably) Malcolm Turnbull Showed The AFP (Maybe) What a VPN Is.

    Tracking so many stored end IP's will be difficult to track down. Why not create local based VPN which is funded by the government to force all users to log their browsing history. We're wondering if how many or what percentage of access is actually work based?

    We are damned by stupid politicians.
    I don't know if they are getting stupider or have always been this way since Federation.

    I'd be interested to know how much pressure is coming from the Americans who want access to our metadata, and might be using Australia as a test to see what happens here before they introduce a similar scheme in the USA.

    Fortunately, for us, the current mob in Canberra don't know anything about technology and have some very poor advisers. Meanwhile with all this spying going on around the world, the smart techos are busy developing more and more ways to prevent the spies from tracking us.

    The world fights back!

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