Tuesday, 19 January 2016 15:26

EFA renews objections to warrantless metadata access

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Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) says the Attorney-General should reject most of the requests for warrantless access to telecommunications metadata from various agencies.

Late last year, EFA called for warrants to be mandatory when access to metadata is sought.

The organisation was particularly concerned about inadequate protections for journalists.

Parliament originally restricted warrantless access to what EFA describes as "a carefully chosen list of agencies," but since then a much broader range of agencies have sought such access.

They include Australia Post, Bankstown City Council, Greyhound Racing Victoria, National Measurement Institute, South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions, Victorian Taxi Services Commission, and Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum, according to the EFA, which obtained the list through a Freedom of Information request made by its former vice-chair Geordie Guy.

"The restricted list of agencies able to access telecommunications data is the first and only meaningful limitation on the previously unfettered access to this information by any public or quasi-public agency," said EFA executive officer Jon Lawrence.

"If the Attorney-General is serious about the integrity of his legislation and about protecting the civil liberties of all Australians, then he must act swiftly to reject the majority of these applications."

The EFA's position is that the requirement for a warrant to obtain access to metadata should cover the entire population.

"There are many other privileged communications that also deserve protection, in addition to the critical need to facilitate effective whistle-blowing. The only effective means to protect such communications is for the warrant requirement to be extended to the entire population," said Lawrence.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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