Government Reportedly Authorises Mandatory Data Retention Scheme [Updated]

Despite the ongoing objections of big industry players and privacy advocates from both sides, the Government's National Security Committee has reportedly signed off on a proposal that would compel ISPs and telcos to retain customer metadata for a period of two years.

Update: PM Tony Abbott Confirms: We're Getting A Data Retention Scheme To 'Fight Terrorism'

Proposed amendments to the Telecommunications Interception Act have long been under consideration by the government, which would require ISPs and telcos to collect, store and provide access to the metadata of its customers. Said metadata would be used at a later date by law enforcement agency to help solve crimes.

According to a News Limited report, the NSC signed off on the proposal this week, after a "marathon" meeting in Canberra yesterday. Members of the National Security Commission include the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney General George Brandis just to name a few.

At a special hearing into the proposed changes to the Telecommunications Interception Act last month, iiNet -- arguably the loudest dissenting voice in the data retention chorus -- argued that the proposal to retain data on customers was "un-Australian". Ahead of the hearings, iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby said that the data retention proposal isn't unnecessary:

"The focus of this data retention proposal is not crooks; it’s the 23 million law-abiding men, women and children that will go about their daily lives without ever bothering law enforcement. Those 23 million customers include my 93-year-old mum and my 12-year-old niece. We don’t believe that is either necessary or proportionate for law enforcement.

"We’ve seen no evidence that justifies surveilling inoffensive customers on the chance that, two years later, some evidence might help an investigation. It’s the equivalent of collecting and storing every single haystack in the country, indexing and filing all the straws, keeping them safe for two years, just in case there’s a needle, somewhere. We don’t know if there’s a needle, but there might be. I say forget spying on my mother and niece and get on with chasing the crooks,

The Greens have added their concerns to the debate, with Greens Senator Scott Ludlam previously stating that it treats all citizens like suspects.

“Data retention as envisaged by the Government will entrench huge databases that can be mined for precise patterns of our movements, purchases, interests, friends, and conversations. This interception, copying, recording and disclosure of our data is a means to retroactively police the whole population. We are citizens, not suspects.

Conservative think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, has echoed those statements today in a scathing release on its website. Writes Chris Berg of the plan:

The federal government’s proposed mandatory data retention scheme will be repressive and expensive. It is a fundamental threat to all Australians’ privacy and online freedoms."
Mandatory data retention treats all Australians as suspected criminals, storing away records of their internet activities just in case, in the future, they are accused of criminal activity.
Far from a targeted anti-terrorism measure, data retained under the government’s policy will be available for any law enforcement agency pry into.

Despite these concerns, Coalition government heavyweights reportedly authorised the scheme in the interest of fighting home-grown terror threats. Spy agencies and police forces from various states and levels have been looking for a data retention scheme for a number of years to help in solving tough crimes.

We'll now have to wait and see what the data retention plan looks like when it's drafted in the form of an amendment to the Telecommunications Interception Act. [Daily Telegraph]



    This sucks. I wonder how long it would take to implement, assuming that isps don't have the necessary hardware to store all that data.

    wonder how long it will take iinet to get an article if not an email out telling the everyday person how to setup a vpn etc to make the data retained utterly useless

      Or find a loophole that allows them to set one up for us if we want it.

      There was a law passed in some European country like Norway where the police were allowed to trawl through people's internet history that the ISP's had.

      One ISP actively kept no history at all and advertised the fact. WIN!

    Mandatory data retention scheme, which numerous agencies can leverage, right in the midst of trying to give rightsholders more power.

    "Home-grown terror threats" my ass. This stinks of the copyright cartel. Watch as Australia creates a new "Copyright Police", who will have access to the data, and will try to sue people based solely on metadata, or use their browsing habits as some sort of proof.

    Great so what you're saying is i can expect my internet bill to go up despite not getting extra bandwidth or increased data caps...

      I got a text from my isp yesterday saying that the cost of my prepaid unlimited phone & 4gig internet is going up $5... I do get an extra gig tho... how generous...

    Can we get an updated version of the Five Best VPN Service Providers article?y
    (Also, an article on routers that have integrated VPN support so they can be permanently connected to a VPN and route everything through it would be interesting too)

    Last edited 05/08/14 11:45 am

    Surprise, surprise. Good to know that all those privacy concerns were just utterly ignored. Not to mention that it sounds like, once again, this whole scheme was devised behind closed doors without any public consultation whatsoever.

    Oh well. If this comes into effect, I'm just going to apply my VPN settings to my modem permanently. It's sure gonna be hard for these government luddite idiots to track my metadata if all my traffic is encrypted.

    All this will do is push up prices. For those that are pirating content I imagine 99% of them are smart enough to be using a VPN or other technology to circumvent this anyway.

    You know what really bugs me is the fact that the people that make these decisions really don't have any idea about the technology they are trying to block. They are playing the political game and forcing useless and expensive action simply so they can be seen to be doing "something" to there party constituents, even if they have no idea what that "something" is.

    So if they are reading my emails maybe ASIO could just filter out the spam for me?? Better yet, maybe they could just ring me and tell me when I get an Email that I might want to read?? Maybe ASIO could do me a huge favor and just reply to all my emails and the like so I can spend my time downloading game of thrones??

      +9000 internet points
    Thats scarey, when the governments own descriptions of it say "protect privacy" "obtain warants" and the Telco Act is suppose to protect us too.

    If a call centre has to ask by LAW for permission to record a converstaion, then ISPs should by Law ask permission to record our online activity. Privacy Act 101.

    Hopefully iiNet will take 'em to court again, and hopefully some of the other ISP's will grow a set this time and support them...!!

      Other ISPs don't see anything in it for their profit margin.

      Thus we are only going to hear from iiNet because iiNet is the only ISP that has remembered the core most rule of commerce: the customer comes first.

      Last edited 05/08/14 1:09 pm

    Slapping the law abiding citizens isn't cool. I'm not happy to have a colonial gov't agency have access to my financial records. I also don't like the possibility of such data being stolen from the colonial gov't agency. Any tips on the best vpn service providers appreciated.

      They make a point of not keeping any records for any amount of time... If the feds ask for info they send an empty hard drive, or so they say. Speed is pretty damn good too... :)

    Inevitable, is that you MAX, no. CHIEF, it's 99, I am on my way to CONTROL.

    Data analysis can provide personality indicators - It would be possible to analyse data and spit out a list of people who would be likely to say, shoplift based on their browser history. I have no intention of participating in this blatant, unconstitutional and invasive betrayal of our privacy. Any ISP advertising that they will resist these changes and defy them if they become legislation, I will gladly allow to call me "Customer"!

    We need to know from which date this data is required to be kept - and 24hrs beforehand - setup your VPN account.

    Any laws that follow will be retrospective to the date of first retention - be aware.

    Having such technology will kill small ISP's just keeping the metadata for a year or two. All those charges will be passed to consumers. I saw a news earlier in Houston that Google provided a cyber tip to the police about a child pornography. So if Google can do this on the spot why need to store metadata for 2 years. It will be a waste of money for the consumers and even for the ISP.

    Members of the National Security Commission include the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Attorney General George Brandis

    Now there's a distinguished group of luddites. Definitely one that I trust to make well considered tech policy.

    Despite these concerns, Coalition government heavyweights reportedly authorised the scheme in the interest of fighting home-grown terror threats. Spy agencies and police forces from various states and levels have been looking for a data retention scheme for a number of years to help in solving tough crimes

    I'm surprised that no one has pointed out that these two sentences are contradictory. One is about preventing crimes, the other is about solving crimes that have already been committed.

    The amendment has little to do with counter-terrorism - access to historical metadata will do little to prevent incidents, because such data is only really useful when applying retrospective coherence, i.e. identifying existing data relevant to something that has already happened. That's why you get the claims that all the data to prevent the WTC attacks was there for anyone to use, but no one did. Which is true, but you can only recognise that after the fact. We - as human beings in a data-oriented world - are getting better at extracting patterns from existing data, but we're still not great at it - certainly not anywhere good enough to justify massively increasing the amount of data to analyse.

    It's worth reading the Australian Parliamentary Library's research paper from 2012 to cover what is being discussed ( While then AG Nicola Roxon ruled out going down to the level of storing individual URLs visited, the current government is not being quite as open about what is and isn't in scope, given that in the same paper, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione was quoted as saying he:

    wants records of where people have been on the net as well—“to the extent that we know where people were or what their ISP was that they were using, or the URL that they did visit

    Last edited 05/08/14 4:20 pm

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