Oh Hey, It's National 'Get A VPN' Day!

Image: iStock

Today is the day, people. From now on, the Federal Government's Metadata Retention Scheme is unavoidable for telcos and internet service providers. They will be keeping your metadata - including text messages, location information, and internet connection details - for a full two years, ready to be passed on to Government agencies when requested, without a warrant. Compliance is mandatory.

So, of course, online rights organisations are calling today "National Get a VPN Day".

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"Virtual Private Networks provide an important element of privacy protection for users," Electronic Frontiers Association says. "and EFA therefore encourages all Australians to consider using a VPN service when accessing the Internet."

EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said calls VPNs one of the most effective tools for protecting privacy when using the Internet, due to the degree of anonymity they provide when accessing online services - and also the protection against "eavesdropping and government surveillance".

So get a VPN, EFA says. But which one?

"As with any industry, the quality of VPN services varies considerably, particularly in relation to privacy issues and people should therefore be well-informed before selecting a provider," EFA says. Here are the organisation's tips for choosing the right one for you:

  • What data does the VPN record? Is the VPN retaining web logs? Does the VPN know your IP address and the times that you connect to their servers? Also, what kind of advertising data does the VPN service store and does it hand that data over to third parties?
  • How long does the VPN store data? Nearly all VPNs will store some data in order to troubleshoot network issues. However, the duration of that storage plays a key role in terms of the privacy protection afforded to users. After all, if the data has been deleted, then it cannot be accessed by a third party. Ideally, a VPN should be wiping user data within hours of it being recorded. If a VPN is storing data for anything more than a few days then beware.
  • Read the privacy policy carefully. If you don't find the answers to your questions in their privacy policy then ask them directly, or steer clear.
  • What country are they based in? For example, you may want to avoid services based in Australia, UK, US, New Zealand or Canada (the so-called 'Five Eyes' countries, which have comprehensive intelligence-sharing arrangements in place). You may also want to avoid services based in countries with authoritarian governments.
  • What payment methods do they support? Using BitCoin and/or other digital currencies will provide you with an extra layer of anonymity

EFA is also calling for Australians to contact their local MP regarding the dangers of mandatory data retention - communicating to them the main point sof concern:

  • All access to this data should require a warrant - not just for journalists' data (the only people currently protected). A majority of European Union countries require some form of independent, judicial authorisation for access to this sort of data, so there's no reason why Australians shouldn't enjoy the same protection.
  • It's important that additional agencies aren't added to the list that are allowed access to this data. The one good part of the data retention legislation is that it reduced the number of agencies able to access this data from literally hundreds to less than two dozen (Police and anti-corruption bodies mainly).
  • The two year retention period is unjustifiably long and must be reduced to at most six months.

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Australia's Federal Court has put a stop to a final attempt by Australia's peak privacy advocates to restrict the retention and access of information by Australia's telcos, and the judgment will have wide-ranging implications for what information is considered personal under the terms of the Privacy Act.

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Happy VPN day, everyone!



    This article doesn't really explain how to use a vpn for people who don't know where to start, that type of thing would be great

      Any chance you or someone else could explain to me how to use a vpn to protect my data and what vpn should be used for an Australian.
      I'd seriously appreciate it! :)

        I have started using PIA, the chrome extension seems to break sites, but the win install able driver/app seems to work great.

      Regarding the actual topic, is this really taking off in Australia? I can't imagine most people paying for a VPN, because generally most people don't care that ISPs retain metadata (or even know what that is).

    Alas. I've recently learnt that you can't trust many of the VPN companies to protect your data.

      I agree most of them are not to be trusted but there are a few good ones out there that do not keep logs and protect you data like express vpn and purevpn. You can also use tor and vpn together to better protect your data

        Why would you use Tor and a VPN together? Tor is a VPN.

        *Checks your post history. This is your first post.

        Hello spam bot. Here to plug your VPN or VPN Ranking site? I see you have several friends in this comment section all brand new accounts with only 1 comment.

    "EFA is also calling for Australians to contact their local MP"

    My local MP is Scott Morrison. Is there any point in actually contacting a MP knowing that both major sides supported this?

      They should all be ashamed of themselves for what they have now inflicted on peoples privacy rights

    Has anyone had any experience with IPVanish?

      I have not tried ipvanish but I'm using sahrzad service for 3 years and it works perfect for me.

        Pretty sure he asked for info on IPVanish. Not the shitty VPN you are trying to plug.

      I've been using IPvanish since March and haven't had any problems so far. It is quite easy to use and have it on my laptop, phone and ipad.

    Whats the point, its too late now, they already got ahold of years worth of data from ISPs, getting a VPN should of been years ago. This is not realtime data collecting.

    The best part is that everybody knows about the workaround and they actually are starting to use VPNs. Though they also need to understand the fact that all the providers are not same so it is better for them to go for a reliable one i.e. not based in the 5 eyes countries like PureVPN which is based in Hong Kong, faraway from the danger zone and good for your privacy!

    Wow, Suprised. Usually any article on here about VPN's always has a couple of plebs trying to plug their shitty VPN ranking blog.

    1. ToolateBoys is prolly right about it. They must've been collecting it from day one.... better to stay safe and use third party vpns than feeling sorry afterwards
    2. if nothing embarrassing has happened yet, it prolly won't in the future. but it's better to play it safe
    3. yes, vpns and similar software can be dodgy at times, but there are decent ones operating too who've been delivering for years now, like ivacy, express, pure, astrill and tor. if they don't have log, they're what you need.
    4. yes, 2 years is an unjustifiably long-a** time.
    5. Data collection for security purposes only hints it more that it's gonna be monitored or analyzed for patterns at some point in time within those two years.

    I tend to think a few isp's at least wouldn't have started until today, it costs money to store data, so why go through the cost when you didn't have to?

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