Malcolm Turnbull once gave these tips on circumventing metadata retention laws that start today

‘This better be taken on Snapchat’. Photo: Christopher Pearce/Getty.

Today the federal government’s data retention laws have come into effect and many are wondering what this means for them (if that’s you, read here).

While telcos and law enforcement agencies will have access to your metadata, and the ability to access it without a warrant, there are ways to hide your personal information from prying eyes. Just ask prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

During his time as communications minister, when the data legislation was being proposed, Turnbull talked about ways the public could circumvent the system.

“I use Wickr as an application. I use a number of others. I use WhatsApp… because they’re superior over-the-top messaging platforms,” he said.

“When I say over the top, what I mean is they’re travelling over the internet.”

Encrypted peer-to-peer messaging apps, such as Wickr, Whatsapp and Snapchat, let users transfer data, text and files through a secure exchange server.

Secret messages, pictures, videos, audios files and documents can be sent and received through the app, which does not collect personal information, and can be made to expire after a nominal period of time. Users can connect without uploading contact lists, chat with groups of up to 10 people and “shred” their device of any deleted materials.

And Turnbull’s not the only politician using these apps. Treasurer Scott Morrison used one while he was minister for social services, along with other MPs like Alex Hawke.

Despite the government’s push to force telcos to store metadata for counter-terrorism security purposes, the Wickr app deletes geolocation and identifying information from sent media, meaning there’s no metadata trail to capture.

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are another way of cheating the system. They encrypt all internet traffic between a user and the server, preventing internet metadata to be seen by the providing telco.

Some have argued that the legislation won’t work because criminals or terrorists will use these known methods to get around the system, leaving innocent Australians to have their metadata captured.

During an interview with Sky News in March this year, the prime minister even went as far as to say that the laws are “not a 100% guarantee”.

Speaking with host David Speers, Turnbull basically rendered the metadata retention laws useless.

“If you have a device, you know, a phone or a smartphone, and if I call you through the mobile phone network there will be a record. Say my phone’s with Telstra, there’ll be a record with Telstra that I’ve called your number.

“If on the other hand I communicate with you via Skype for a voice call or Viber, send you a message on WhatsApp or Wickr or Threema or Signal or Telegrammer — there’s a gazillion of them — or indeed if you make a FaceTime call, then all that the telco can see, insofar as it can see anything, is that my device has had a connection with the Skype server or the WhatsApp server; it doesn’t see anything happening with you.

“There are always ways for people to get around things, but of course a lot of people don’t, and that’s why I’ve always said the data retention laws, the use of metadata, is not a silver bullet. It’s not a 100% guarantee. It is one tool in many tools.”

Well, there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. Read more here.

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