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Avoiding data retention

In her article ‘Good luck citizens, we’re on our own’ Sally Baxter warned that:

Deep end or shallow, Australia’s data retention laws are a reminder that if you’re going to swim in the publishing pool at least know where the hidden objects lie.

Sally also noted that it wasn’t until the 11th hour that journalists started showing some concern, but predictably, on how the new laws would impact them and them only. “But what about lawyers? What about doctors? For that matter, what about ordinary Australians?”

Well there is none, but there are ways to swim around those hidden objects.

Many AIMN readers have asked ‘how?’, either in the general topic discussion or in letters to The AIMN.

AIMN reader Harquebus has come up with the answer. Some might find it ‘technically challenging’ but at least it’s good to know there is a way.

Over to Harquebus . . .

I would like to share with you just a few things that you can do or use to avoid online surveillance and to access blocked sites. And yes, it’s all legal!

Tails (see below) is something that I have nicknamed, ‘Stick it to George Brandis’.

1) Tails is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a DVD, USB stick, or SD card. It aims at preserving your privacy and anonymity, and helps you as:

  • you can use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship;
  • all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;
  • it leaves no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;
  • uses state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

For more information visit tails.boum.org.

2) Change your dns settings either on your computer or router to something other than your ISP’s default.

I use openDNS IP addresses: and There are others. Google also operates a free dns server.

3) Use a proxy server or VPN (Virtual Private Network). I use free proxy servers and find that they work quite well in getting around geoblocks and accessing banned sites. Also good for downloading multiple files in parallel from data lockers.

* * * * *

Data retention was never about combating terrorism anyway, it is all about copyright protection.

It is true what was said to us at Computer Science School. “Those who try to control the internet do not understand it.” — University Lecturer.

People who are worried about governments hacking into their computers (which does happen) may wish to visit the “Resist Surveillance” website, which I have also found very useful).

Note: DNS was the only choice until “Namecoin”. “For the first time, there is a viable alternative” wrote The Telegraph in their article ‘The coming digital anarchy‘. For those interested, here are a few pertinent quotes from the article:

“This crypto-currency is based on Bitcoin, but instead of acting like money it acts like internet addresses. It has claimed the .bit domain as its own and anybody with Namecoin can use it to reserve an address”.

“Bitmessage aims to do the same thing for email. It’s entirely safe, secure and anonymous, with no central point for storage for snooping agencies to target”.

“No treasury can print more Bitcoins and inflate away the value of your savings, or recklessly lend them out for years to people with no chance of meeting repayments, eventually bringing the whole system crashing down. The rules of Bitcoin are set in digital stone”.

“Critics who say Bitcoin is nothing but zeros and ones in a computer file and therefore can’t hold value miss the point that their bank balance is, similarly, nothing but a number on a computer”.

“There is a growing mood that nobody can be trusted with our money or our data”.

For assistance or more information, please contact me (via The AIMN). I am only too willing to help stick it to George Brandis some more.

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  1. kerri

    Thanks Harquebus!!
    I have directed my adult kids to Scott Ludlam’s post on facebook about how to get around surveillance but I am concerned that while he offers good advice, Brandis undoubtedly can’t stand Scott so it wont be long before those techniques are caught up with.

  2. DanDark

    Thanks Harby, I am not technically literate yet so this looks a bit hard,
    but I am catching up on them youngsters, yep by the time I am 100 I will have worked out technology 🙂

  3. Roswell

    Way over my head, but I appreciate this all the same.

  4. Harquebus

    You are all welcome.
    Please don’t forget to pass this along to all of your friends.
    Some somewhere will understand the jargon I am sure.

  5. Harquebus

    “These four simple digits allowed people to bypass their ISPs’ poisoned internet phone book and instead use one of the hundreds of thousands of others that exist on the internet by changing some simple settings on their computer.”

    “The team [at AGD] are saying talk to your lawyers, because they are the only people that can decipher this – which from an engineering and operating point of view is doing everybody’s head in,” Yager said.

    Control of the internet is all about copyright protection.
    “The Electronic Frontier Federation claims the proposal is being pushed by US entertainment companies, frustrated at the anonymity many site owners enjoy.”

    “The federal government is planning to introduce new laws that would force telcos and ISPs to hand over details of network changes and procurement plans or be hit with civil penalties for non-compliance.”
    “The new telco sector security reforms add to the mandatory data retention bill passed in March and the website blocking bill and industry code aimed at tackling copyright infringement.”


  6. Morpheus Being

    While using TAILS is perhaps the best option for completely avoiding the snoopers, there are other things that can be done.

    Checkout https://prism-break.org and https://privacy-tools.io for starters.

    Stop using Windows and Mac OSX and move to Gnu/Linux.

    Add some plugins to your browsers to change ip. Use an VPN so all the traffic from your Australian based computer is encrypted to the country of entry onto the internet (do not use any country in 5 eyes or snoopers lists).

    Start using encrypted email for everything using gpg4win or enigmail.

    Stop using google and use https://startpage.com or https://ixquick.com.

    Stop using Facebook.

    For chatting/video/voice calls use https://tox.im with qTox or Antox.

    For complete privacy of communications, file sharing, messaging, VOIP, have a look at http://retroshare.sourceforge.net.

  7. Harquebus

    Good advice Morpheous Being and thanks for sharing.

  8. Harquebus

    “The decision to potentially allow the use of the data in civil cases came despite Attorney-General George Brandis claiming in 2014 that the regime would apply “only to crime and only to the highest levels of crime”.”
    “The data retention scheme is not a necessary and proportionate response to the needs of law enforcement and national security”
    “It is difficult to conceive of a civil matter of such consequence as to necessitate access to what is effectively a comprehensive surveillance system.”

    The recent blocking of various sites in Australia can be circumvented by changing DNS settings as stated in the article.

    Search criteria: change dns settings

  9. Harquebus

    “What stands out is that the systematic rewriting of history and access to a free exchange of ideas and questioning has been supplanted by an approved filter with limited options.”
    “In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.”
    “Is Google a mere business who data mines oodles of information for profit or is it a mere quasi front for the CIA and NSA to benignly manage the extraction of the patterns and preferences from the public?”

  10. Harquebus

    Piece by piece, bit by bit, our access to knowledge will continue to be curtailed. Placing limits on speech has its consequences.

    “British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni all used the pretext of fighting terrorism and “fake news” to call for more drastic measures by the major technology firms to censor the Internet, which Gentiloni called a “battlefield for hearts and minds.””

    “It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.” — Joseph Goebbels

  11. Harquebus

    Economic integration with China was supposed to improved civil liberties in that country. Instead, our own have been steadily eroded.

    “China, which has already deployed the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship system, is building a surveillance state in Xinjiang, a four-hour flight from Beijing, that uses both the newest technology and human policing to keep tabs on every aspect of citizens’ daily lives.”
    “China’s government has invested billions of renminbi into top-of-the-line surveillance technology for Xinjiang, from facial recognition cameras at petrol stations to surveillance drones that patrol the border.”
    “”It’s too dangerous to call home,” said another Uighur exile in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “I used to call my classmates and relatives. But then the police visited them, and the next time, they said, ‘Please don’t call anymore.'”
    “A month later, the disappearances started. Friends would vanish in the middle of the night, spirited away by police to political education centers. His neighbors began to disappear, he said, one after the other.”

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