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Data retention a very hot potato says Oz parl't commitee

Update: A-G shelves the idea, for now

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Data retention: “significant extension to the power of the state”

Since it represents the focus of the Australian political debate, let's look at what the PJCIS has to say.

Vulture South cannot claim to be expert in the rules of drafting parliamentary committee reports, so we're not competent to comment on what the committee “should” have recommended. It is clear, however, that the committee does not have the same sanguine view of data retention regimes as is put forward by law enforcement.

While acknowledging the “significant utility” stored data offers to law enforcement, the committee notes that “the utility of such a regime to the national security agencies is not the only consideration” that matters.

“A mandatory data retention regime raises fundamental privacy issues, and is arguably a significant extension of the power of the state over the citizen. No such regime should be enacted unless those privacy and civil liberties concerns are sufficiently addressed,” it notes.

It says that content should be excluded from data retention; that access to stored data should be tightly controlled; Internet browsing data should be excluded; that “where information includes content that cannot be separated from data, the information should be treated as content and therefore a warrant would be required for lawful access”.

All stored data should be encrypted by default, the storage period should be no greater than two years, and there should be a mandatory data breach notification scheme. Any data retention regime should be audited for compliance, with oversight both by ombudsmen and the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security.

Finally, the report recommends that the JPCIS review the scheme's operation annually, and that it conduct a review into the effectiveness of any scheme after three years.

The Register notes that the committee's hearings – and its drafting period – took place long before Snowden's leaks brought the privacy and government snooping debates to the fore, teaching the world at large that metadata (who called whom from which phone in which location) is at least as intrusive than capturing content.

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