Skip to main content

Contact your Labor MP

The Government bears the ultimate responsbility for introducing this invasive scheme.

However, despite staunch opposition from the public (and even within their own party), Labor allowed the scheme to pass.

You can use the email tool to contact your Labor representative and voice your disappointment over the passing of the scheme, and call on them to withdraw their support for data retention before the next federal election.
Metadata is literally 'data about data', but is a confusing and largely unhelpful term. Even the Attorney-General finds it difficult to define. In this context, it's intended to refer to information about communications, rather than the content of the communications themselves. This is, however, in many cases an entirely false distinction, as demonstrated in this excellent article from iiNet's blog.

Even if you accept that there is a meaningful distinction between it and the content of communications, the collection of data about communications (metadata), especially in bulk, is arguably more invasive than the examination of the content of communications. As the former NSA Chief, Michael Hayden, infamously said "we kill people based on metadata". As the CJEU noted in its April 2014 ruling that the EU Data Retention scheme is invalid, metadata:

"…may allow very precise conclusions to be drawn concerning the private lives of the persons whose data has been retained, such as the habits of everyday life, permanent or temporary places of residence, daily or other movements, the activities carried out, the social relationships of those persons and the social environment."
The creation of massive databases of highly personal information will act as "honeypots" which will be actively targeted by malicious individuals and organised crime syndicates. In addition, the risk of inadvertent data breaches is very real – the Federal Police and the Immigration Department have both had serious inadvertent data breaches recently – as is misuse of the data by disgruntled or compromised employees.

Companies forced to retain data will seek to use the cheapest data hosting available to minimise the cost of compliance. As Steve Dalby, Chief Regulatory Officer from iiNet said last year, the cheapest data hosting available at the moment is in China. This raises the additional threat of the data being compromised by the intelligence agencies of other countries.

The question is therefore not whether this information will be compromised, but rather when and how. Any such data leak could have serious implications for the affected individuals, particularly for vulnerable people such as victims of stalking and other forms of harassment, as well as for public officials such as judges and even politicians.

The government's proposals therefore represent a real threat to the privacy and security of all Australians.
There are real questions about whether bulk collection and retention of communications data is particularly effective in preventing terrorism and criminal activity.

In the US, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board studied the impact of the NSA's data retention activities and found that there "is little evidence that the metadata program has made the US safer".

Research from Germany has shown that a mandatory data retention regime increased crime clearance rates by only 0.006%, which is statistically insignificant.

At the recent public hearing conducted by PJCIS, neither the Attorney-General's Department nor the Australian Federal Police were able provide any statistics relating to the role of retained communications data in the interception of criminal activity or in any successful prosecutions.
It has been estimated that a mandatory data retention regime would add at least $5 per month to every internet connection account, unless the government chooses to fund such a regime, which would cost many hundreds of millions of dollars to set up and to operate.

Given that different telcos and ISPs currently retain different types of data for differing lengths of time, as determined by their individual business models, the implementation costs of this scheme will vary significantly, and will impact smaller and leaner operators harder than the bigger operators. Telstra, for example, as well as having a much greater capacity to absorb these costs, also already collects and retains (it is understood) much of the data the government is seeking for significant periods of time. Other providers, such as iiNet, retain much less data and in many cases delete that data quite quickly as they have no business reason to store it. These providers will therefore be required to create and store data that they currently do not.

This scheme will therefore have significantly adverse effects on competition with the telco and ISP markets and may force some smaller operators out of business as well as creating new barriers to entry to the market. A joint submission by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and Communications Alliance to the 2012 inquiry by the PJCIS estimated the cost of the scheme proposed by the then Government to be between $100 million for basic data capture and $500–700 million with IP addresses included. iiNet's upper estimate was $400 million.

The result, of course, will be higher prices for businesses and consumers.


Copy the link to IM, Skype or post it!

In taking action, I agree to GetUp's Privacy Policy.

Contact Labor

Enter your postcode to find your MP or Senator

Your details will be sent along with your message.

In taking action, I agree to GetUp's Privacy Policy.