Senator Ludlam tells Australians to use offshore services and VPNs to bypass mandatory data retention

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam today during a Senate hearing on mandatory data retention told Australians to make use of offshore services and virtual private networks (VPN) to bypass the proposed Bill. Conceding that there likely isn't enough opposition to stop the Mandatory Data Retention bill from passing the Senate, Ludlam instead provided a list of ways that everyday Australians can avoid the collection scheme.

"Effectively, the Government is incentivising people to use offshore providers," said Ludlam during the hearing, explaining that international services such as Gmail and Facebook Messenger would not be subject to the scheme.

Ludlam then proceeded to recommend the usage of services such as Tor and VPNs, explaining that they can mask internet usage for a small monthly fee.

Tor is a free open source program that routes a user's traffic through a network of over six thousand relays, while a VPN allows a user to access the internet through another computer's connection. As such, a user's metadata would only show him or her communicating with VPN, rather than the site actually being accessed.

"Circumvention and anonymity is not illegal," said Ludlam. "What I'm proposing is that we take the power back from our Government who have clearly drunk the surveillance kool-aid"

Ludlam also expressed concerns about scope creep, suggesting that the two year retention period could quickly grow to five, ten or even as long as life time.

"This is a bill to entrench massive, passive surveillance," said Ludlam. "It normalises the fiction that this information is nothing more than billing records or the envelope that surrounds substantive communications."

Labor Senator Jacinta Collins opened the hearing, accusing the Greens of running a scare campaign against the Bill, saying that their efforts have made it difficult to have an "open and honest" conversation about data retention.

Collins also expressed concerns about where data collected as part of the Bill will be stored, and said that Labor will request a requirement that all information be kept on Australian shores. The Greens also support Australia-based data storage.

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