Less than three months since legislation to restrict access to metadata without a warrant to a select few Commonwealth agencies came into effect, The Australian Government has revealed the details of 57 agencies that have requested access to your metadata.
In response, internet freedoms lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has today called on the Attorney-General to reject a large number of these applications, and has renewed calls for warrants to be required to access metadata.
EFA Executive Officer Jon Lawrence said today, “The restricted list of agencies able to access telecommunications data is the first and only meaningful limitation on the previously unfettered access to this information by any public or quasi-public agency. If the Attorney-General is serious about the integrity of his legislation and about protecting the civil liberties of all Australians, then he must act swiftly to reject the majority of these applications.”
“Metadata is the basic building block in nearly every counter-terrorism, counter-espionage and organised crime investigation. It is also essential for child abuse and child pornography offences that are frequently carried out online.” the Attorney-General said back in March 2015.
Agencies that have requested access to metadata include Bankstown City Council, Australia Post, National Measurement Institute, Greyhound Racing Victoria and Victorian Taxi Services Commission.
“Given the justifications for this legislation, most Australians will rightly question why these types of organisations consider that they should be added to the list of agencies able to access the telecommunications data of any Australian, without a warrant,” said the EFA in a statement.
Questions have been once again raised as to why warrants are not required to access the general public’s metadata. The EFA have brushed off concerns that it may cause issues.
“There are 11 Member States within the European Union that currently require judicial authorisation for all requests for access to retained data, demonstrating that a universal warrant requirement is not an undue burden on security and law enforcement agencies,” it stated.
A warrant is currently required to access Journalist’s metadata, which the the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has concluded is inadequate as it could “limit the right to an effective remedy, fair hearing, privacy and freedom of expression.”
“Carving one section of the community out of a mandatory, society-wide data retention scheme is impossible in practice,” says Mr Lawrence. “There are many other privileged communications that also deserve protection, in addition to the critical need to facilitate effective whistle-blowing.
“The only effective means to protect such communications is for the warrant requirement to be extended to the entire population.”