With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

In light of the government’s data retention scheme which will allow Telco’s and Internet service providers to keep customer data for two years, Liberal MP Craig Kelly warned  the “devil is in the detail”, highlighting the public’s concerns about what data will be kept. Anxieties were exacerbated when Attorney-General George Brandis stumbled over his clarification of the term metadata. Why are we all of a sudden so concerned about our data storage when each day we are blissfully unaware of the digital footprint we leave behind online?

Usage of social media has become habitual for over 1.8 billion people. Julian Assange has described Facebook as “the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.” The service that has over 1.3 billion Monthly Active Users has been criticised for its questionable Privacy Policy that users tend to overlook. Many users are oblivious to the fact that Facebook possesses the power to mine and share personal information with third parties such as advertisers and governments. This was revealed after Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, leaked specific documents that identified several technology companies including Facebook as participants in the PRISM program. PRISM is a mass electronic surveillance data mining program that was launched in 2007 by the NSA. It enables governments to mine data and engage in surveillance at a distance. This perverseness presents enormous opportunities for regulation. In America, the FBI are encouraging Facebook to support a plan that builds backdoors for government surveillance. The National Electronic Surveillance Strategy enables the monitoring of any site or app that permits communication. Similarly the NSA is employing experts to intercept billions of Internet communications and access many gigabytes of social networking data annually.

On our own shores, the data retention scheme has been put in place in the interest of combating home-grown and international terrorist threats. Implementation of this extreme measure of surveillance is being justified to eliminate threats to national security. Ironically, this scrutiny is a violation of personal security. The government has a conflict of interest as they have an obligation to protect you and are concerned about abuses, but tempted by access to wantonly exposed data.

The debate over the current regulatory framework and in particular the government’s data retention scheme will continue to dominate the column inches as a balance is yet to be found that satisfies both the governments need for information awareness and that respects a user’s private domain. Looking towards the future, is it possible for governments to guarantee the safety and well-being of users but also respect requests for privacy?

By Christopher Hew – Taurus Marketing

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