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Data retention laws kick in today – what does it mean for you?

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The new data retention laws kick in today which means phone, internet and location information will be collected by telecommunication companies and stored for government agencies.

But a recent survey of the service providers by the Communications Alliance has revealed a low state of readiness for the scheme which calls for data to be collected and stored for two years.

More than two thirds of providers were not completely confident what exactly was expected of them.

That leaves just 16 per cent who say they are ready to retain and encrypt the data as required.

More than half of the providers say their one-off set up costs to comply with this new data retention scheme could cost up to $250,000 with 24 per cent saying it will be over $250,000 and 12 per cent saying it could top more than $1 million.

And 61 per cent have actually lodged an application for either an exemption or variation from the scheme.

John Stanton, Communications Alliance CEO, says the survey results illustrate the size of the challenge ahead for the industry to achieve compliance with the new laws.

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“It is no surprise that many service providers won’t be compliant when the legislation comes into force – many of these because they are still waiting to hear from Government as to whether their implementation plans have been approved,” Mr Stanton said.

“All providers are still waiting to hear from Government as to how it will apportion the $131.3 million that has been pledged in assistance to partially meet the set-up costs that service providers – and ultimately their customers – are facing as a result of the regime.”

“The Government has indicated it will consult with industry in coming weeks on how to apportion the subsidy and this remains an urgent task, as service providers are

now having to commit to investment decisions without knowing how much of that spending will remain unfunded,

“In light of the survey results, the onus remains on Government to work constructively with industry – and not rush to enforcement – over coming months to help providers come into line with what is proving to be a very challenging and somewhat confusing impost on the industry.”

So what will the data retention scheme actually collect?

What the government is after is metadata. This is the data that reveals who we call and when we call and where we call from but none of the actual conversations.

It’s the same thing for websites – the IP address, the device you were using and the time you visited.

With emails, the metadata will reveal who you emailed, where you emailed from but what you actually wrote in the email will remain private.

The reason the government is doing this is to provide assistance and intelligence to special agencies who are battling serious crime and terrorism.

But should be worried about this?

Most of the metadata that the government is requesting is already being collected anyway by service providers for billing and management purposes.

So for some, the attitude is “if you’ve got nothing to hide – you’ve nothing to worry about”.

And while the actual content, messages and information is not being shared in this metadata there are still some people entitled to feel like their privacy is still at risk.

For these people there is the option of using a VPN – Virtual Private Network – to hide your digital trail.

On the internet, a VPN gives the impression that you’re logging in from an IP address other than your own to ensure your internet footprint remains confidential.