Home Government Tech Policy AFP breach prompts IA call for new data retention scheme inquiry

AFP breach prompts IA call for new data retention scheme inquiry

Internet Australia has called for a new parliamentary inquiry into the Data Retention Act following revelations last week that the Australian Federal Police had admitted illegally accessing a journalist's metadata.

According to IA, there should now be a fresh inquiry into the entire data retention scheme in the wake of the actions by the AFP.  A federal police officer is now under investigation after the AFP revealed that a police investigator had accessed a journalist’s phone records, without a warrant, in relation to a “sensitive information” leak.

This latest call from IA follows its repeated calls over the last year or more that the scheme will not achieve the government's stated aims in relation to national security – with former IA chief executive Laurie Patton suggesting the only way out of it was to go back to the beginning, “back to the parliamentary inquiry that looked into it in the first place and get them to run the ruler over it”.

And newly appointed chief executive Anne Hurley said on Friday that IA’s previous submission to the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Intelligence and Security had pointed to the potential for misuse and supported calls for more rigorous controls on who could access data and under what circumstances.

Hurley noted that since early April, ISPs are required to have systems in place to retain their customers’ metadata for two years.

“However, IA points out that only a minority of ISPs are known to be compliant and this makes the whole scheme of dubious benefit.,” Hurley said.

“The Attorney-General’s Department received applications from 210 ISPs seeking funding to help them meet the costs of compliance, of which 180 were approved. However, industry estimates of the total number of Australian ISPs ranges from 250 to more than 400.

"This means there are potentially hundreds of ISPs not known to the security agencies. They will not necessarily even be collecting the metadata they are required to keep. And even if they are, how will the authorities know where to go to get it?"

Hurley issued a reminder that IA has also warned that the costs of the data retention scheme will inevitably be passed onto consumers.

"PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated the cost of compliance to the industry at $738 million over the first 10 years. IA believes that this underestimates the likely total given that the figure was based on an incomplete list of ISPs.

“The government's funding is already nowhere near enough. ISPs are out of pocket and they’re unhappy. This exercise has been a disaster from the start and it's becoming clear that the scheme is only going to become more controversial," Hurley claimed.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).