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Metadata and The Birthplace of the Thought Police

This post is actually about two articles. I must admit when I first read them I was a little skeptical even though I agree that the measure in Australia is generally not a positive development. The point that is made in the second article though relates the idea that with such a vast hoard of metadata the government will be able to make predictions about behavior patterns and anticipate actions. At this point I am picturing a large warehouse of grey clothed workers at computer terminals assigning tags to phone numbers or website such as terrorist, criminal, et al and a list of people to observe based on their association with that phone number or website. In other words an anticipatory surveillance or suspicion of people based on the relation of their metadata to someone else’s metadata. While I think these articles may be taking an extreme leap somewhat and their tone is definitely editorial I think the concern they raise issue with is valid.

Article 1

Article 2


Controversial metadata laws to be debated in lower house

Here we have more news about the metadata political battle ongoing in Australia. I found it interesting that the cost for the program is described as $188 million to $319 million. This struck me because that is a huge gulf between already huge sums of money. Yet, again, no indication of how this data will be managed is given in detail other than to mention that passwords, PINs, et al will not be held by the telecommunication company which is tasked with retention of this data for a period of two years. In response it describes a campaign designed to attempt to flood the attorney general’s email inbox – ironic because this mimics a denial of service attack which is a commonly deployed illicit tactic. Further irony exists I think between the supposed reason for this measure – the prevention of cyber terrorism acts – and the fact that it creates a target for illicit groups in search of the information being retained for criminal reasons.

Abbott government’s metadata plan tipped to cost $300m

This article once again brings metadata into the news. In reading the latest about this situation in Australia I was struck wondering just how this data is kept and handled. The reported on political component of the issue seems to revolve around who will foot the bill for the effort of retaining the data (referred to as “the scheme”), but I failed to find information describing how this data would be handled. More importantly, who will be handling this data and what will be their qualifications? From the article it seems the decision of cost sharing is yet to be decided and does not directly mention who will be handling the data. Presumably the Australian government is requiring companies to employ and train individuals to be caretakers of this information. Given the current climate of hostile data breaches it is alarming that more focus is not given to the means and personnel of “the scheme” described in the article. The secure and proper management of this information will be critical to successfully executing the mandate of the government.