Metadata, Smart Technology and the Security Minefield Online

Smart technology is evolving so rapidly that many people believe Australia’s privacy laws have not sufficiently kept pace. Apps we freely use are feeding information on our patterns of behaviours back to their makers, we hand over access to our contacts so we can play our favourite mobile games, and these days it seems even our smart TVs are listening in to our conversations!

In fact, technology is developing so quickly that new telecommunication releases appear to have the potential to bypass new Australian metadata laws—that aren’t yet even in place. Take the BlackPhone2 recently launched at the largest mobile phone conference in Barcelona—a highly encrypted handset capable of calling, messaging and storing contacts with “complete privacy”.

The Australian Government will no doubt be looking closely at how such technology is treated in light of their $400 million plan for telecommunication companies to retain the metadata of their phone and internet customers for two years.

For people like you and I, these major policy decisions about data retention and security are largely out of our control. And let’s face it, when the lawmakers struggle to articulate what terms like metadata actually mean, it doesn’t give the everyday person much hope of understanding how these laws will impact them.

However, we do have some control over how we share and protect our personal data online. Take passwords for example. Do you regularly update your passwords? Do you use different passwords for banking and social media? If not, I urge you to consider doing so. Human nature sees us socially engineered to unknowingly offload passwords.

“When that viral quiz on Facebook rolls around and asks you to put your pet’s name together with your mother’s maiden name…don’t do it…and reinforce this message with your kids too.” – Ian Jones

There are people out there building and retaining intimate data on us—this isn’t metadata—but specific facts and personal information that relates to you and your life, and they’ll be poised to use it when the opportunity arises.

Data security and privacy issues are a constant and increasingly mainstream story, from phone hacking and celebrity ‘selfie’ scandals, to security breaches on passwords held by major corporations and their customers. So metadata conversations aside, our best bet is to stick to what’s within our control and be vigilant about keeping our important private information just that—private safe and secure.

Ian Jones

CEO, PaySmart

NB: PaySmart is a leader in ensuring the highest standards of data security possible, and with Level 1 (Version 2) PCI-DSS Compliance rating, has confirmed its position as one of Australia’s pre-eminent providers of direct debit services.

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