How Australia’s new Metadata Laws will affect Online Marketers

October 13, 2015

It’s official: Australia’s compulsory metadata retention laws have gone live as of midnight last night.

All Australian internet service providers (ISPs) must now, by law, retain certain details of their clients’ internet usage.

ISPs are now legally required to save information regarding the source, location, and duration of their clients’ web browsing history, as well as the source, destination, and time of online communication such as messages, emails, and phone calls.

As a result, an unprecedented number of people are making the switch to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), in a bid to keep their online use private.

Looking at Google Trends over the past five years shows a significant recent increase in search volume around “VPN” based search terms:

vpn trends

What does this mean for online marketers?

While the metadata laws themselves should have no affect on digital marketing efforts, there are a number of ways in which the use of VPNs will have an impact on your campaigns and reporting.

Ad targeting:
VPNs have the ability to show a different geographical location for a user. Therefore, if you are running online geo-targeting ads via Google Adwords for example, then your audience may diminish. People within that geographical area will appear to be located elsewhere in the world (depending on the settings of their VPN), and therefore won’t be targeted with your ads.

Local/maps results:
For many businesses operating out of a fixed location, attracting customers via the business’s map listings is a successful and popular marketing technique. Optimising map listings has become an industry in itself, combining geographical factors and SEO techniques to get better exposure to people searching for local services. Unfortunately for these businesses, internet users who are searching via a VPN may not have the criteria required to trigger the display of local map results in their search.

We may see an increase in success from websites which are not geo targeted in their SEO efforts.

Reporting:
If the location of your customers is an important factor for your reporting, then you too may be out of luck. Just as VPNs will confuse ad-delivering software, they will also confuse reporting tools. Depending on the location implied by the VPN, Australian websites may soon see an increase in their analytics data showing visitors appearing from across the world.

security guard

Summary:
All in all, the metadata laws will have very little direct impact on digital marketing, but the resulting increased VPN use will likely cause some grief.

Let’s see how the next few months turn out…

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