Data retention Bill is a recipe for privacy abuse

30th Oct 2014

Australians will have no protection against security agencies misusing their personal or private information under proposed legislation governing a mandatory data retention scheme, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.

Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull introduced the mandatory data retention Bill into the House of Representatives today. If passed, the legislation would allow law enforcement agencies to access two years' worth of customer metadata without a warrant.

ALA spokesperson Greg Barns said there was no justification for a Bill of this nature to be passed, and that it would leave Australians with no recourse but to ‘cross their fingers and hope’ that security agencies would not misuse their data.

“The proposed data retention Bill means that Australians will be spied upon by their own government to an unprecedented extent,” Mr Barns said.

“Under the legislation, every single phone call, every single text message, email or online communication will available to be accessed by security agencies such as ASIO or the Australian Federal Police.”

“Australians are being left with no protection against the misuse of their data by these agencies. In Australia we have no enforceable right to privacy - the only option left is to cross your fingers and hope they don’t pick you,” Mr Barns said.

Mr Barns said that the proposed legislation needed to define exactly what data ISPs are being asked to keep. According to the Bill, authorities need a warrant to access the ‘content’ of communications – however it does not explain exactly what constitutes ‘metadata’.

Mr Barns said that Australians should take a critical look at what is being proposed, and start asking hard questions of their political representatives.

“Take with a grain of salt the government’s assertion that ASIO or the AFP will not look at the content of your data,” Mr Barns said.

“The revelations following the experience of whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden show us that our data is routinely misused by security agencies in the pursuit of their goals.”

Tags: Access to justice police powers