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ASIC chimes in on data retention, seeks more intercept powers

Carriers fight rearguard action on cost

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The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has dropped a stink-bomb into the data retention debate, asking the government to give it intercept powers covering e-mail, social media, text messages and phone calls.

In hearings of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Intelligence and Security in Sydney on Thursday September 27, ASIC commissioner Greg Tanzer complained about the body’s “inability to access lawfully intercepted information” to investigate white-collar crime.

The ASIC request does not, however, appear to be a demand that the proposed universal data retention be extended to communications content – rather, it wants the right to access information gathered under warrant by other agencies.

ASIC’s appearance before the committee echoes a similar piece of wish-listing by the Australian Tax Office in August.

Carriers iiNet and Telstra also appeared before the committee yesterday, highlighting both the cost and technical challenges of implementing data retention. iiNet believes it would have to recover at least $AU60 million in set-up costs alone, according to its chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby, resulting in a pass-on to its customers of around $AU5 per month.

Dalby also said iiNet handles more than a million URLs per second, all of which would have to be retained. Extrapolating this across the industry, he said the total setup cost could be as much as $AU400 million, and the monthly cost to iiNet alone would be $AU3 million.

Telstra said the size of its network means merely scoping the implementation of a data retention regime would cost millions, and the attempt to retain data might fail because over-the-top services like Skype wouldn’t yield the information the government hopes to capture.

NSW Police chief Andrew Scipioni had earlier told the same committee that police didn’t want a time limit on data retention, but had “accepted” a two-year period as a compromise. ®

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