If you work in the technology space, or are just a keen follower of the news, chances are you would have heard the term “metadata” or perhaps “metadata retention law” mentioned in the press lately.
That’s because this new term for the data that modern life creates, which goes alongside traditional data like credit histories and bills, has been the subject of intense debate in Canberra recently.
The government has introduced and passed new measures relating to metadata – but how will that affect you?
What is Metadata?
For the purposes of the new laws, metadata can be described as a digital footprint that is created when you do tasks online like filling out forms or writing emails. That makes it different from the actual data that is contained within the communications.
For example, for a phone call, it’s the number called, the length of the call and the location that the call was made from, not the actual content of the call that would be the “footprint”.
Who Can Currently Access Metadata?
Service providers such as Telstra and Optus already collect and retain metadata from their customers. However, under the former laws, they were not required to retain it.
In addition, Australian law enforcement agencies like the Federal Police or ASIO can already access this data with a court issued warrant if they have reason to believe it may help them with an investigation.
Why the New Laws?
The Federal Government has a range of reasons for the new laws, which include the prevention of terrorism, better investigative powers for the police, and the ability to prosecute offences more effectively with access to the digital footprints that service providers collect.
The laws are also required because phone and internet companies currently do not retain the data that they collect because of the cost involved to do so, and the fact they only have a limited number of uses for it.
Will it Affect Me?
It’s likely that the new laws will affect all customers of phone companies and internet providers – so basically all of us. That’s because the scheme would cost $400 million a year to implement and run, and most of that cost will be carried by the service providers.
As businesses, it is expected that they will pass this cost on to customers. Estimates range between $4 to $10 per customer, which would likely be added to the monthly bill for the account.
The metadata bill has been one of the more controversial issues debated this year in parliament, with both staunch advocates and strong opposition on different issues related to its application and consequences.
The entire scheme is due to be reviewed after four years in operation, so we will have to wait and see whether the cost and controversy has been worthwhile.
For your own small business communication, please feel free to contact us at Tele2, so we can help find you the right solution to your phone, internet and mobile connectivity needs.