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Poll: Australians hate government data retention plan

VPN providers like it, though

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Polling by Essential suggests that Australians aren't behind the government's plan to force the telecommunications industry to retain data about subscribers' online activities.

According to the research, only the government's own base of voters is in favour of the data-retention* plan, with 59 per cent of Coalition voters expressing support.

Folks from all other demographics and political persuasions are against the plan, giving the government's plan just 39 per cent support across-the-board, while 51 per cent of respondents oppose the plan. It's also a dead cat among younger voters, with 64 per cent of respondents in the 18-34 age range against, compared to 54 per cent of those over 55.

The split was strongest among Greens voters: 80 per cent are against the idea, while only 15 per cent are in favour.

It's not just pollsters that think Australia is wary of the plan. US virtual private network (VPN) vendor ZenMate says it's seen a “60 per cent increase in visitors from Australia” to its Chrome store in the last three weeks, thanks to the efforts of messrs Brandis, Abbott and Turnbull.

ZenMate co-founder Simon Specka thinks he has proof of the link between the government's new policy and increased Australian interest in his product because “We saw similar results following recent internet restrictions when Turkey’s PM banned Twitter.”

Specka's not saying what his baseline traffic is from Australia, or anywhere else, so perhaps his sales have risen from five a week to eight a week, in which case it'd be best to file this one under “opportunistic PR” rather than “serious indicator of sentiment”.

The Essential poll comes as yet another split emerges in government ranks. The Guardian's Australian edition quotes NSW government backbencher Alex Hawke as being “concerned” about the idea.

Having opposed the former Labor government's data retention proposals, Hawke said that the right to privacy is “essential”, and that any scheme needs protections including the right for citizens to know who is accessing their data. ®

*Bootnote: Vulture south has come to the conclusion that any distinction between “data” and “metadata” is meaningless in the current debate, given the lack of any stable definition in either legislation or from government members. Whatever the government proposes to collect will be data and described as such. ®

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