By Wendy Bacon and Elise Dalley
It was not your usual Saturday night at the pub — hundreds of people gathered with laptops to learn data privacy skills and as Greens Senator Scott Ludlam put it, “protest against the way LNP and Labor MPs have rolled over” on metadata retention “even though a lot of them desperately disagree on the policy.”
It’s the “gross invasion of personal privacy” that doesn’t sit well with Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, who joined Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker and Greens candidate for Newtown Jenny Leong Greens at the Roxbury Hotel in Glebe on Saturday night for a ‘crypto party‘ to teach people how to protect their personal privacy in light of the government’s new surveillance mentality.
Two days earlier, the controversial bill to store the data of every Australian using a digital device passed the Federal House of Representatives with just three MPs – Greens Adam Bandt and Independents Cathy McGowan and Andrew Wilkie – standing against the mandatory two year data retention it will create. Ludlam said the evening was aimed at giving people a “sense of agency and collective power” and to “help build an insurrection against Bill Shorten’s bizarre decision to sacrifice our privacy for the sake of a deal with Tony Abbott”.
“I hope you can appreciate what a fundamental change [this is] from the targeted and discriminate judicial oversight processes that’s embodied in a warrant,” Ludlam told the crowd. The new data retention measures will see all phone, email and other metadata stored and made accessible to authorities for two years for every device that exists in Australia.
As this report is published the data retention laws are still being debated in the Senate. Senator Ludlam is already recommending more crypto training.
“It is entirely lawful; in fact it is built into the bill, to circumvent mandatory data retention just by using overseas providers,” he told the senate.
Under the new laws, authorities will skip the process of applying for a warrant and have direct access to the public’s personal data with the signature of a single senior officer. The Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance and human rights organisations strongly oppose the law as a threat to freedom of communication and investigative journalism.
Although the bill has now been passed, the workshop around online privacy skills remains more relevant than ever. Greens member Susie Quinn went along to the party to learn more and show her support.
“It’s important to loudly let politicians know how opposed we are to being under surveillance for no legitimate reason,” she said.
“The crypto party gave us practical ways to protect our own privacy – like some simple apps to use. It was eye-opening and empowering.”
“When we talk about data we’re talking about who we spend time with, where we go, what we do, what we care about. It’s not just some abstract technical term. If you think about it in that way, it’s hard not to care about what’s happening.”