by Byron Connolly

EFA wants govt to reject companies seeking warrantless metadata access

Jan 19, 2016
GovernmentTechnology Industry

Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) has called on the Attorney-General to reject requests from most of the 61 agencies seeking warrantless access to telecommunications metadata.

The civil liberties organisation highlighted Attorney-General George Brandis’ assertion on 26 March 2015 that metadata is the building block in nearly every counter-terrorism, counter-espionage, organised crime, child abuse and pornography investigation.

Given these justifications for this legislation, most Australians will rightly question why certain organisations consider they should be able to access the telecommunications data of any Australian without a warrant, EFA said.

Some of the organisations requesting access include Bankstown City Council, Australia Post, National Measurement Institute, the South Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regions, Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum, Greyhound Racing Victoria, and the Victorian Taxi Services Commission.

The 61 companies were revealed in a document released yesterday following freedom of information requests by IT publication ZDNet and Future Wise privacy analyst, Geordie Guy.

The data retention legislation reduced the number of companies authorised to gain access to data without a warrant shortly after it came into effect in October 2015.

The list included organisations such as the Australian Border Force, state and federal police forces, the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, and state and federal anti-corruption organisations.

EFA executive officer, Jon Lawrence, said in a statement that 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.

“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,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence pointed out that there are 11 member states within the European Union that require judicial authorisation of all requests for access to retained data. He said this demonstrated that a universal requirement is not an undue burden on security and law enforcement agencies.

“EFA therefore again calls on the federal parliament to urgently review this legislation, and to implement a universal warrant requirement for access to telecommunications data,” he said.

Follow CIO Australia on Twitter and Like us on Facebook… Twitter: @CIO_Australia, Facebook: CIO Australia, or take part in the CIO conversation on LinkedIn: CIO Australia

Follow Byron Connolly on Twitter:@ByronConnolly