Greens Senator Scott Ludlam has said that the Greens will be targeting the Labor Party in its campaign against mandatory data retention in the coming weeks. In a speech at the Privacy Workshop in Melbourne on Friday, Ludlam said he expected the legislation to introduce mandatory data retention to be introduced to Parliament in the next fortnight and called on voters to get in touch with their Labor senators to voice opposition to the laws.

“This week I’m proposing that people look up the number of their Labor senator and call them up and ask them, ‘why on earth would you give George Brandis what he wants?'” said Ludlam.

Mandatory data retention, which would force telcos to retain customer metadata for two years, is likely to be part of the third tranche of amendments to national security legislation.

Ludlam says he is aware of MPs on both sides of politics who “loathe this stuff”, and he says an online campaign as well as more old-fashioned methods, like calling senators, will stop the legislation passing. Ludlam has branded Attorney-General George Brandis as “weak”, and says that if the laws are passed, the chance of repeal is low.

“Nobody wants to be the government that repeals national security legislation then suffers an attack on their watch.”

Speaking to Crikey at the Privacy Workshop, Eleanor Saitta, a leading internet security engineer, has slammed the proposed laws as “catastrophic”.

“The things that I see coming out of Australian politics right now are not the work of a democracy. There is no actually functional opposition, and the security state is simply running rampant over basic democratic concepts and over the fundamental workings of society, it is unacceptable, and it must be stopped.”

Saitta is the technical director at the International Modern Media Institute and spoke to the conference about how users can make surveillance policies difficult to implement by raising the costs for authorities.

“Surveillance happens because it’s cheap. The cost of actually capturing, storing and processing data has dropped by factors of billions over the course of the past decades, and if we want those organisations to stop surveilling the only thing that we see the works historically is changing the price of surveillance.

“So if we can make it expensive to surveil again they’ll stop doing it.”

Saitta told the audience that “spies are gonna spy” and that the purpose of using privacy technologies is to make that more expensive as well as difficult.

“Whether it’s un-tappable isn’t the point. The point is that it makes surveillance much much more expensive, and the idea is that we use these things all the time, every day — not just once in a while.”

Saitta does emphasise that policy is important in protecting privacy, but that individuals can also use apps and browser extensions.

“HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger are both great tools from the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation] that will install in your browser, that make your browser more secure,  that make it harder to surveil you. So any time you install one of those tools it’s a tiny little drop in the bucket, but enough of those drops and we can make a real difference.”

Peter Fray

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