Met Your Match with Metadata

30/04/2015 - Posted by Roshelle Curtis

Has data retention got your attention, or are you a little baffled by what it all means? Metadata can be mega confusing. This blog entry will focus on the current hot topic and break it down for those not so techno-savvy, to understand the implications in business and personal life.

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Metadata is the individual data collected on your personal or business IP addresses based on your online activity and phone calls. But is it like a search history of your browsers and activity, which is now being collected?

According to the ABC News, web browsing history isn’t actually included. Neither is the body and text of SMS messages, or the body and subject lines of emails. Nor are the files attached to emails, including photos or documents. It doesn’t include the audio of phone conversations – or audio recordings of online and social media chats. Continuous location tracking via mobile devices isn’t included either.

So what will be kept? Well apparently ISPs and telcos are now required to amass all their metadata together on individuals for agencies such as the Federal and State Police, Customs, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to access when needed, amongst others. According to ABC’s Lisa Main (paraphrased from her March 17, 2015 online article: “Data retention: What is metadata and how will it be defined by new Australian laws?”) this metadata will include:

Phone calls – Incoming/outgoing caller identification; time, dates and durations of calls; device location at the start/end of calls; unique identifier number assigned to particular mobile devices; status of devices (ie: lost, stolen or roaming); and information about features used on calls (such as call waiting or forwarding).

Internet (for services provided by Australian operators) – Email address; time, date, size and recipients of emails; file type/size of attachments sent or received; online chat times, dates and identity of those on chats; details about internet usage including bandwidth; how many uploads/downloads made and the size of each; details about what technology enabled each (ie: ADSL, Wi-Fi, cable internet); and account details held by the ISP/telco, including when the account was activated or suspended.

Paraphrasing Adam Turner’s online article via The Sydney Morning Herald – “Will Australia’s metadata retention scheme track your digital browser fingerprints?” from April 22, 2015:

Although web browser history cannot be trawled (at least not without warrants), suspicious online activity can be tracked back to IP addresses. Authorities could then demand ISP’s to match that with account holders. Fingerprints left by web browsers remain intact regardless.

This makes using free communal WiFis a lot less desirable you say – if you are checking your Facebook account… you don’t want to be connected in any way to others using shared connections for less desirable things? In that vein, could businesses be unwittingly linked, if they’re not careful? It’s all new territory and very vague right now, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

How does this impact small business? Well for cafés/restaurants/shops who offer free unrestricted internet, for businesses who provide work phones or home internet for their staff, or for those organisations who don’t actively monitor the activities of their staff or clients on company computers (from surfing to downloads) – this could have potential implications in the future. If you’re concerned, then feel free to speak with our IT2You staff on the current software that’s available, which can assist in monitoring or limiting such situations.

There’s no need to become paranoid – you just need to be prepared. Knowledge is power, so learn more about how this may impact your household, and your business today! Do you have any questions we can help with?

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