Australians troll politicians to protest data retention law

Australians unhappy over proposed data retention laws target politicians with unsolicited text messages in protest

Australian citizens unhappy over proposed data retention laws are targeting attorney George Brandis and other politicians with unsolicited text messages in protest.

The way the Australian legislation is being pushed through mirrors the way the UK's equally controversial Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act was pushed through parliament in July 2014.

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

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.

Brandis was the first to be targeted by protest messages, which included Photoshopped picturesBlade Runner quotes and even the first chapter of George Orwell’s novel 1984, reported The Guardian.

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.

Read more on Privacy and data protection