Feeds

Aussies face 10 year browsing lock-up

Super store of emails, sites visited

Boost IT visibility and business value

Anything Europe does, Australia would like to think it can do better – and when it comes to snooping on individual internet usage, Australia is determined to lead the way.

A report in ZDNet Australia this week reveals that the attorney-general's department has been holding discussions with industry on setting up an Australian data retention regime.

Such an approach would oblige ISPs to hold not only the private web browsing history of their subscribers, but also all emails sent by subscribers for a set period of time and to make both of these available to law enforcement agencies on request.

However, Australia is thinking of going much further than Europe: a period of up to ten years appears to be under consideration. This would dwarf the term set out by EU directive on this issue (pdf), which appears to be the model of choice, and which envisages such records being maintained for between six months and two years. It even beats the UK’s RIPA regime, which requires ISPs to hold records for 6 years.

At present, these plans are very much at the drawing board stage. In February of this year a Bill passed in the Australian Senate permitting ISPs to intercept traffic as part of "network protection activities". It is likely, however, that further legislation would be required in order to implement such far-ranging measures – and such a Bill is unlikely to be brought forward this side of the forthcoming Australian general election.

An official statement from the the attorney-general's department confirmed that it "has been looking at the European Directive on Data Retention, to consider whether such a regime is appropriate within Australia's law enforcement and security context.

"It has consulted broadly with the telecommunications industry."

According to Internet Industry Association (IIA) Chief Executive Officer Peter Coroneos the industry has been holding discussions with the attorney-general's department, but the IIA hasn't "seen any firm proposals yet from the government".

He said: "It's more along the lines of [the attorney-general's department asking] 'What do you see the issues being if we were to move to a position similar to the EU?'."

Electronic Frontier Australia (EFA) chair Colin Jacobs said the proposals were "a step too far".

"At some point data retention laws can be reasonable," he said, "but highly-personal information such as browsing history is a step too far. You can't treat everybody like a criminal. That would be like tapping people's phones before they are suspected of doing any crime."

For now, department officials are still talking. Critics have pointed out the difficulties for smaller ISPs of complying with such a move, but when it comes to policing the internet, the record of the Australian government to date suggests that practicality is not the highest priority.

According to one industry insider, the government once again has the dual threats of terrorists and paedophiles in its sights – and therefore we should expect further action on this issue. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?
EU reckons we've one foot out the door anyway
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Government's 'Google Review' copyright rules become law
Welcome in a New Era ... of copyright litigation
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.