It’s baaaaaaaack! Proving that you can’t keep a bad government policy down, Australia’s spy agency, ASIO, as well as several state and federal policing agencies have asked the government to consider implementing a data retention scheme that would require telcos and ISPs to store “metadata” generated by users. Welcome back to the surveillance state of the future.
In a government submission to discuss potential amendments to the Telecommunications Act, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), said that it wants telcos to store customer metadata for a prescribed period. Other law enforcement agencies around the country have joined the push, including the Northern Territory Police, Australian Crime Commission, Australian Federal Police and the Victoria Police according to the SMH.
Not sure what metadata means? Basically it’s everything relating to your calls, messaging and browsing history except the actual content itself. That means law enforcement would be able to access a database of numbers you called, how long you spoke to them for, where the call was placed from and where it ended up, who you messaged and when and websites you browsed and where from. Metadata does not include the content of calls (the actual talking part), the data you enter into websites or the content of messages.
Law enforcement agencies want this data stored thanks to one man: Edward Snowden. Ironically, the man who fought to expose surveillance and interception programs by spy and law enforcement agencies has provoked the Aussie ones to pursue such programs even harder.
Enforcement bodies say that without user metadata, investigations into criminal wrongdoing and gang activity are being compromised, and ever since Snowden revealed that agencies are listening in, potential criminals have started using encryption technology to stop themselves from being tracked. Rather than try to break the encryption at a device level, law enforcement agencies want the Telecommunications Act changed so that data on everyone’s movements can be stored.
This isn’t the first time that data retention has reared its ugly head. The previous Labor government flirted with the idea of a massive data retention scheme. Former Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, backed a plan to store the metadata of Australian telco users in a bid to cut down on compromised investigations as a result of not having enough evidence to place criminals in certain areas.
The Labor government was slammed for the plan, with Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam, saying that it would treat every Australian like a criminal, costing them their privacy and a general presumption of innocence.
The plan quietly petered out after the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security issued a 300-page report into the many reforms it considered, which included a giant buck-pass over the data retention scheme. The report said that the implementation of such a scheme would “ultimately be a decision for the government”.
The government is considering a raft of policies which would affect internet users, including the future of the National Broadband Network and a controversial piracy push as a result of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a consideration to re-implement “three-strike” rules around copyright infringement. [SMH]