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Australia?s New Laws on Data Retention and Surveillance to Help Fight Terror

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The Australian flag flying high against terror.
The Australian flag flying high against terror.

The Australian flag flying high against terror.

With terror groups using the Internet for their nefarious designs, such as the rumored use of ISIS of social media apps for recruitment purposes, Australia has taken a bold step in fighting terror online. The Australian Federal Parliament, in a move of statesmanship where Labor and the Coalition joining together on this measure, passed new data retention laws in Australia.

The new laws passed

Amongst the features of the new legislation is the mandatory retention by telecommunications service providers of records of phone and interne t use for two years. There would also be a blanket privilege on government security agencies access to these records. Other provisions include specific protection for phone and internet recordings of journalists, seen as a move to protect the journalist?s sources as well as keep the identities of whistlblowers.

One of the more vociferous objectors to the new measures was the Green Party, saying the law would put in place ?a passive, mass surveillance? system that is prone to abuse and misuse. Other solons such as Senator Nick Xenophon and Senator David Leyonhjelm sought to move the other way, proposing new measures to protect and even increase private protections.

The provisions of the new law

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill of 2014, as reported, had the following provisions:

  1. Require telecommunications companies to retain customer’s phone and computer metadata for 2 years
  2. Define which types of data must be retained, such as phone numbers, length of phone calls, email addresses and the time a message was sent, but not the content of phone calls or emails and explicitly exclude internet browsing
  3. Detail which agencies are able to access the data
  4. Give security agencies access to the data when they can make a case that it is “reasonably necessary” to an investigation
  5. Still require security agencies to obtain a warrant before accessing the actual content of messages or conversations
  6. Introduce an independent oversight mechanism, allowing the Commonwealth Ombudsman access to agency records, in a bid to boost privacy protections
  7. Give the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security oversight of the use of metadata by the AFP and ASIO
  8. The Government is negotiating with telcos about who will pay for the new system

The government support for the law

For its part, the Australian government said, through a statement issued by Attorney General George Brandis, ?The bill contains safeguards to protect our cherished rights and liberties, including through the establishment of additional oversight mechanisms covering the security and law-enforcement agencies.?

Image courtesy of Creative Commons contributor Johan A.

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