Australian citizens unhappy over proposed data retention laws are targeting attorney George Brandis and other politicians with unsolicited text messages in protest.
As happened in the UK, opposition parties in Australia have reportedly struck a last-minute deal that will enable the government to enact legislation that will force telecommunications providers to store the metadata of all phone calls and internet use for two years.
Metadata can include basic phone call statistics, as well as specific information such as the location of a smartphone user when they access the internet.
“Metadata can be immensely valuable to intelligence agencies, as while it may not reveal the details of what you said or wrote, it can still paint a surprisingly full picture of your private life,” wrote independent security consultant Graham Cluley in a blog post.
“And yet governments argue that the information is harmless for them to collect, often making the comparison to the information stored on the outside of any envelope when a letter is sent,” he wrote. “Well, if it's so benign, why do they have so much interest in collecting metadata?”
Protestors discovered that Brandis and other politicians who support the controversial legislation had linked their Apple iMessage accounts to their public email addresses instead of a private phone number.
Read more about UK Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act
- The emergency surveillance legislation being rushed through the UK parliament could be in breach of European law, technology law experts have warned.
- UK Interception of Communications Commissioner Anthony May launches investigation into “institutional overuse” of the power to access communications data.
- Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act should be reviewed more frequently, says former UK home secretary David Blunkett.
This means anyone can use the linked public email addresses to send text, picture, voice and video messages through the iMessage service built into Apple devices and the latest versions of Mac OS X.
A campaign to protest against the data retention legislation has also encouraged Australians to send copies of all their emails to Brandis’s government email address.
Brandis, who has been dubbed “Curious George” by the protest campaign, has been one of the strongest advocates for the data retention legislation.
Shortly after the iMessage bombardment began, Brandis unlinked his public email address from the service.
Other government MPs who have linked their public email addresses to iMessage are likely to follow suit.
They include health minister Sussan Ley, environment minister Greg Hunt, industry and science minister Ian Macfarlane, justice minister Michael Keenan, Nationals MP Luke Hartsuyker, Liberal MP Bob Baldwin and the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary Christian Porter, according to BuzzFeed.