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The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has appointed a new chief executive and told Internet service providers to lift their game in tackling crime, arguing for stricter laws to force ISPs to comply with data requests.

ACC acting chief executive Paul Jevtovic told a senate inquiry reviewing the Telecommunications Interception Act yesterday the current legislation needs an overhaul to compel communications providers to fulfil data requests, after some requests made by authorities were rejected by service providers.

The ACC used its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to call for a two year mandatory data retention regime uniformly across the telecom industry, in order toprovide law enforcement agencies the flexibility needed to tackle the complications posed by emerging technologies.

“This two year period would assist with protracted ACC investigations, which are currently authorised by the Board for up to three year periods,” the ACC said in its submission.

“The concept of telecommunications data retention would need to be sufficiently flexible to ensure data from new, emerging or unknown future technologies that can assist investigations is also able to be retained.”

The ACC said that without this flexibility “technology will continue to outpace the legal framework under which the ACC and its partner national security and law enforcement agencies operate.”

Jevtovic said in the past telcos had refused to provide data due to costs or other reasons, and that their co-operation was needed through legislative change.

“Without this we will be fighting organised crime not with one arm tied behind our backs, but two,” Jevtovic told the Senate.

But there were opposing views. The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), which represents Australia's telcos including Vodafone and Telstra for example, argued that law enforcement agencies would have to cover the extra costs associated with collecting and keeping the data.

AMTA said in its submission that mandatory data retention would be “at odds” with prevailing policies to protect privacy.

“Industry believes it is generally preferable for consumers that telecommunications service providers retain the least amount of data necessary to provision, maintain and bill for services,” says a joint submission with the Communications Alliance.

“The cost of retaining data beyond any period it would be retained in the normal course of business must be borne by the agencies that require it,” the submission says.

“Similarly, any costs in relation to security, storage and ability to search retained data must also be borne by the agencies that require it.”

Internet Service Provider iiNET said storing that amount of data would be impractical, given the sudden rise of the Internet and enabled devices like smartphones.

“By 2020 global IP addresses are predicted to pass 50 billion in use,” iiNet said in its submission.

“It is an impractical idea to store such data and it is even more impractical to suggest that a law enforcement agency, can simply call up a service provider and say ‘give me all Joe Blow’s URLs for 15 June 2012’.”

Internet freedom crusader and recently re-elected West Australian Senator Scott Ludlam told the ACC's acting chief executive that his organisation's demands were unreasonable.

“What you appear to be proposing is a minimum of [a] two-year map of the location of every handset in the country and every communication between every Australian on any device just in case we may end up in the Mafia later,” Ludlam said.

“And that that material should be accessed by a wide variety of agencies without a warrant, and is open to abuse and harvesting by others completely regardless of your mission.”

The committee will make recommendations on whether a review of the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act should take place.

Meanwhile the deputy commissioner of Western Australia's police force has been appointed chief executive of the Australian Crime Commission.

Chris Dawson joined WA Police as a cadet in 1976, and he will replace acting chief executive Paul Jevtovic from 28 April.


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David Swan

David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. He also writes for Junkee and Fasterlouder. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan