Here's How Tony Abbott Defines Metadata

Amidst a tough week for the Federal Government, Prime Minister Tony Abbott thought it might be a good idea to come out and try to sell the data retention legislation. Here's what our Prime Minister defines "metadata" as.

Speaking from the Australian Federal Police HQ in Melbourne, Prime Minister Tony Abbott waded into the tricky waters of technology and defined metadata thusly:

It's data about data. It's the data that the system generates. [Data] that you the user generate is different and that will require a warrant [to access]. The police need general access on authorisation to the metadata.
What we're asking the telecommunications companies to do is keep the data that they generate. We're asking them to keep doing what they used to do which they're not doing because of the change in technology.

Abbott also briefly addressed the concerns about the cost of a metadata retention scheme, basically saying that the industry needs to suck it up, seeing as how they can afford it:

We're getting some work done on [cost]. Even if the costs are in the order of a few hundred million, this is a $40 billion sector. The costs involved are comparatively modest, we the government are prepared to work with the sector to ensure we provide our fair share of the costs.

The definition of metadata given by PM Abbott today is certainly a better answer than his Attorney-General, George Brandis, gave.

When metadata was resurrected by the Coalition, Brandis <a href=""gave an interview to Sky News where he described metadata as the information on the front of a mailing envelope.

The interview was so bad that the journalist interviewing the AG won a Walkley award for it.

Today's press conference also saw the PM use the attacks in Sydney's Martin Place as well as the murder of journalists at French magazine Charlie Hebdo as a justification for metadata retention.

"From the siege to Charlie Hebdo, there are a whole range of people in our country who want to do us harm, and it's absolutely vital that we maintain the capacity to trace, detect and protect the Australian public against all kinds of crime. This government will not rest until our community is safe as it can be, and part of that is getting data retention through the Parliament."

Data retention is currently being scrutinised by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), which will hand down a report on the proposals at the end of February. The Prime Minister clearly expects the outcome to be positive from the report, saying that as soon as it is handed down he wants Parliament to act on it.

"Once the committee's report has been given to us, it's important that we crack on," he said during the press conference.

Questions raised by the PJCIS this week include whether or not a metadata collection scheme can be easily dodged by the use of overseas providers like Google and Microsoft, or through the use of public hotspots.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin told the assembled media this morning that even if overseas providers slip through the data retention net, everyone still leaves a "digital fingerprint" of metadata that will be collected.

"Even if you are using a Gmail account — an over-the-top-provider from an overseas company — you still need to make a footprint where you connect to the internet. This is the basic identifier about who connected and where," he said.

Commissioner Colvin looked to water down public concern over sweeping metadata collection, saying he didn't share the concerns of some that the proposed scheme would be too broad.

"There's a difference between what is possible and what is permissable with this legislation. This legislation confines [the scheme] to information that's critical to law enforcement. We're working with industry on what that data set looks like. Industry have been very responsive but I don't want to preempt the [PJCIS]. [Metadata] will be quite specific. I don't share the concerns that it's as broad or ambiguous as people are saying," he said, adding that he doesn't want his officers to "rely on luck" to get the information they need to crack cases.

We eagerly await the release of the PJCIS' report at the end of February, and we'll bring you all the information as it happens on this important legislation.



    He and his political voices can say whatever about this scheme but the fact is the Australian public will end up funding it causing ISP's to charge us more for an already and ridiculously overpriced and aging internet structure.

    I'm sorry but this is starting to sound more like a tactic to gain legal access to what we're doing in general and NOT about security at all.

    If you did your jobs like professionals and stopped jumping up and down like children you would see how corrupt your own minds are.

    Last edited 05/02/15 8:49 am

      Or by funding it through taxes.

        I think you missed the part where I said "Australian public".

        i.e. The Australian public pays taxes.

          Doesn't matter if the Government pays for it or ISPs pay for it, they'll both be paying for it with our fucking money.

    privacy issues aside, it doesn't work and it's too expensive.

    and using Charlie Hebdo as an example when France keeps metadata themselves is misguided.

    And as mentioned many times before in many different places - data retention will do nothing to prevent a lone wolf attack (like the Lindt cafe siege) and France (where the Charlie Hebdo office is) already has data retention laws so... that worked.

    The Abbott government still doesn't understand what it is they're doing wrong that has their polling in the toilet and their leader with one foot out the door. It's called listening, it'd be nice if they tried it some time.

    Data retention won't do anything to stop large scale organised attacks either. Terrorist know how to circumvent surveillance too. The only people it does affect is regular users.

    I don't know how much you really can blame the government for this. Just about everyone that has talked about it has no fucking idea what it is.

    I suspect they have people from the AFP or similar agencies telling them that "if you give us metadata, we can stop these attacks from happening". Pollies be "shit yeah, catch terrorists, look good to the public etc".

      I don't know how much you really can blame the government for this
      Well they brought the game... Who else is to blame?
      Their job is to introduce or recind legistlation. Surely the first step in introducing new legislation is to understand what the legislation says and how it can and will be used?
      If they can't do step 1, then by definition, they are incompetent and should be sacked or resign.

    Those pesky ISPs should be paying for it, they can afford it! It's not like anyone uses the internet for anything other than the chat rooms or the bulletin boards anyway right? But mining companies, those guys have ben struggling for years! It's a good thing we scrapped that carbon tax, coal mining is definitely the way of the future!

      The carbon tax was a nice idea in theory in that it was supposed to make carbon-costly power sources more expensive than renewable energy, prompting consumers to switch to the cheaper, greener energy alternatives, forcing the polluters to pick up their green game to reduce costs to be competitive again.

      Only we don't fucking HAVE any cheaper, greener energy alternatives, so it was effectively just a tax on ALL energy production, which - obviously - got passed directly on to consumers while energy providers shrugged, saying, "What're you gonna do? Switch to... what?"

    If turnball challenges for the liberal leadership, I wonder if this policy will hold up, iirc he was against it at one point.

    There’s a difference between what is possible and what is permissable with this legislation

    Awesome! We can look forward to pursuit of copyright infringement being excluded from the permissable list then, yeah?

    Or am I dreaming?

    I was speaking to a Minister at a community event last night, and he told me that the metadata retained could be accessed by all State and Federal police forces, without a warrant, for any offence with a penalty of 12 months or more of imprisonment. He said that the police would be quite limited in what they could do, as the service was quite expensive for them to use - the only protection against fishing expeditions he could name would be lack of police resources. He also said that the metadata would only include the locations at the start and end of the call, as the ongoing gps tracking is considered "data" and would still require a warrant. Basically the metadata will be used without warrant, to select a pool of suspects for further investigation using warrants.

    He could be wrong, it's not his portfolio, but he seemed surprised when I suggested scenarios like running a query on everybody who had visited a mosque on a Friday, and then checking two years worth of location data to send out speeding tickets. They could also search the database for everyone who has visited a brothel (with their smartphone switched on) in the last 2 years. He said police wouldn't do that, because they are strapped for cash and couldn't afford the resources.

    I still don't understand what the Lindt Cafe incident has to do with metadata, wasn't the guy out on bail? Didn't the government have the ability to get all the information they wanted without even having to consider metadata? Isn't it the opposite of what they're trying to argue and just goes to show that it's not what data you have, it's how you use it?

    "Dear federal MP. How you vote on this determines how I vote on you."

    Sometimes its better to say nothing than to say something that really ends up being nothing anyway.
    If anyone believes this will stop at metadata (whatever that might be) then your a fool, subsequent governments will manipulate the 'war on terror' to justify any spy trick they want to play. Next up pirating, followed by p*rn snooping, followed by tax dodging, court warrants, late fine payments etc etc... welcome to the brave new world

    Tony... just take my data. All of it. You and ASIO can all go nuts.

    Actually you will go nuts 'cause when you get my data it's gonna be full of dirty porn

    People leave a "fingerprint"??? Would it be too much to ask for these clowns to use the appropriate technical term for whatever it is they are dreaming up? Or maybe it is too much to ask because they are talking baloney.

    In point of fact, it's hard to see how someone using gmail and accessing a public wi-fi hotspot will leave any kind of "fingerprint". They'll be invisible.

      The MAC address of your wireless card? Have to force all WiFi providers to store every access.

      But then new Apple devices seem to randomise MAC address so even this is moot.

    Oh Tony, why you talk about subjects you don't understand.. Like, at all? You know you're just going to get yourself in trouble, leave it to one of those afp monkeys to make their case to the Australian people for why they need access to our data. And how they feel for a moment their system isn't easily avoided.

    But wait, it isn't AFP who are after this data is it? It's five eye...

    I'm still waiting for the proponents of metadata collection and retention to provide specific examples of where access to such information specifically prevented authorities from acting within the scope of current laws to prevent an event from occurring or obtaining a conviction.

    Using the Lindt Cafe siege is purely emotive argument with no factual basis to provide a well reasoned argument for metadata collection. As far as I'm aware no law enforcement agency has come out and said they knew Man Haron Monis was a threat and planning something, but were unable to ascertain exactly what he was planning or prevent it because the metadata they required was either not being collected or could not be accessed. Also no agency to my knowledge has stated that they have faced any restrictions or difficulties after the siege in their investigation of potential links to other third parties caused by a lack of metadata. I'm sure if this was the case, the proponents of metadata collection and retention would be shouting this form the rooftops. I can only hope that the coroner delves into this area as part of the investigations. Every time a politician tells us how metadata will be the answer to all our security problems, journalists should insist they provide evidence. Ultimately they can't, because it appears that it just doesn't exist and won't really help prevent or solve anything.

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