I’ll give you a hint: it is not to catch terrorists or prevent terrorist organisations communicating and plotting terrorist acts in Australia.
As Tony Abbott pointed out himself Australia’s threat level remains unchanged. The US already knowingly collects metadata via its PRISM program and considering most Australian traffic would be accessing US based websites it does not leave many possible explanations for such a scheme.
What is metadata?
Essentially metadata is data about data. Website owners use meta tags for page descriptions, a page title, author tags and more. Essentially it describes the content when read outside of the context of the data it is describing. It’s a higher level description of data.
In the case of accessing a website the metadata Abbott would want to collect would be the url of the accessed site, when you accessed it (time and date), the location you accessed it from, your IP address (your internet licence plate) and your internet service provider (ISP).
In the case of other activity, your phone calls would be logged although presumably not listened too. Only who you called and how long you spoke would be logged. Presumably text messages would fall into this category as well (with exception supposedly of the contents).
Attorney-General George Brandis used the analogy of, “They’re only looking on the outside of the envelope, not what’s inside of it”
The metadata collection policy is a door to a wider agenda. In the greater scheme of things, because of the shortcomings and limitations of metadata, once the policy has been approved (if it is approved) it will open the door to amendments and additions.
One potential amendment a metadata collection scheme could include is George Brandis’ three strikes filter policy. A filtering and three strikes program would go hand-in-hand with a metadata collection scheme as they would have the information on what users are accessing, from where and give the user a warning as well as potentially passing on that information to rights holders.
It isn’t a secret that Brandis is in favour of protecting the rights of the entertainment industry and lacks the technical knowledge to fully understand the implications and complexities of integrating such schemes at an ISP level.
It is considerably easier to make amendments to a policy like this once it has been passed. In-fact, any amendment to a metadata collection policy could be done in secret under the guise of national security.
One thing the government doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that metadata can be faked. For $5 a month you can route your traffic through an offshore encrypted VPN tunnel thus circumventing the government’s plans to capture web metadata from some Australian users.
If the data is merely descriptive and not overly trustworthy or useful, it makes you question by Abbott and Brandis are pushing for such a scheme so hard. All but lending even more credibility to the idea of there being a bigger picture here Australians are not being told (like the hidden three strikes agenda).
Make your voice heard
There is no reason for metadata to be collected so widely like this schema would allow. While the uninformed might not have an understanding of what this proposed scheme is, it is undoubtedly a trick on the Australian public to pass more strict policies further on down the road.
Let your local members know you don’t agree with this policy, email your state representatives and send Abbott and Brandis a message this kind of policy will never be accepted by the Australian public.