The issue of surveillance is a topic that has remerged several times through out my degree. Regardless of whether it has been a class for Sociology, Digital or International Media, my three majors have all at one point or another brought forward the pros and cons of surveillance and who is watching and being watched.
This week in BCM310 the issue was covered once again. But bought forward an interesting point in the lecture and tutorial. Surveillance is usually considered to be a presence that we know is there. The police or security officer walking around, the signs that let us know that there are CCTV cameras monitoring the area we’re in. But what was presented to me this week was the underlying online activity conducted by Governments that goes beyond the typical ‘hacker’ or ‘fraud’ that the internet usually presents to undermine our privacy and security.
The Australian Government passed the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2015. This Bill enables the Australian Government to have access to people’s metadata for extended periods of time. Metadata is a set of data the describes and gives information about other data. This kind of information involves what device a person used to access a website, how long they were on it for, the location you were at when it was accessed, etc. The same applies to phone calls. It is not a recording of the information sent in an email, what website was accessed or the phone conversation.
Personally I would find it more of an invasion of privacy if it was recorded of the details that were made within my internet activity or private conversations. But the metadata collected could be just as undermining for individuals.
Despite there being freedom of speech and a democracy, data is still collected on people. What the Government chooses to do with that information is up to them. But I know the majority of people hate it when advertisements are directed at them based on past Google searches. So what could possibly be done with all this metadata by the Government?
Deepak And Daniel give a very interesting TED Talk on metadata, and how just looking at their own personal metadata, people were able to tell things had changed within their lives over that period of time. These are called ‘unique digital trails’ by the men. Although they uniquely discuss emails, the information that they are able to gather from just that is quite amazing. Immersion was created by the men that allows users to study their own information and those that they interact with.
Although metadata is now being used by the Australian Government, people can use it for their own benefit too. By being able to gather information on yourself and being able to track your own interactions can be insightful but also be mindful.