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Right now the government is considering radical changes to Australia's surveillance and intelligence laws. Of course authorities should be given the powers they need to protect us, but what's being considered goes much further than is necessary.

Police and intelligence agencies already have broad powers to request that information about the communications of specified individuals be retained to support their investigations.*

What they're seeking now is for that information to be retained for two years for ALL Australians, even if you're not being investigated.

Though the government's initial attempts to articulate what their data retention regime will include have been disastrous, we do know that they want the following information retained:

  • Phone calls: detailed records of phone calls you make and receive, including the two numbers. If a mobile phone is involved, that will include the location of that phone, resulting in a detailed record of your location and movements being collected. See this example to understand just how revealing this information can be.
  • Email: detailed records of who you're sending emails to and receiving them from.

Are details of web browsing to be included?

Watch the Attorney-General's attempt to answer that question. Since this interview, the government has clarified that they do not wish to collect and retain details of web browsing.

But they do want to retain a record of the address assigned to your connection when you access the Internet (called an originating IP address). This information will allow the police and ASIO to identify who has visited specific websites that are of interest to them. It will also allow copyright owners (via subpoena) to identify people they believe are infringing their copyright, by downloading or file-sharing.

Even without web browsing information included, a mandatory, society-wide data retention regime represents a massive invasion of the privacy of all Australians. It also subverts the principle of presumption of innocence by treating us all as potential suspects.

There will be substantial costs associated with implementing such a regime, and guess who'll be paying? Yep, you will: one estimate is that it will add $100 per year to each internet bill.

The massive databases of highly sensitive (and valuable to organised criminals) information will also be highly prone to hacking and misuse, posing genuine threats to the safety of many Australians.

There are already more than sufficient powers available to Australia's intelligence and law enforcement agencies to have information retained about communications involving 'persons of interest'. There is no justification for this information to be retained on the rest of society.

Call on the Federal Government to drop its proposed mandatory, indiscriminate data retention regime, and to treat ordinary, law-abiding Australians as Citizens, Not Suspects.

*Known as 'data preservation notices'.


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We call on the Federal Government to drop its proposed mandatory, indiscriminate data retention regime, and to treat ordinary, law-abiding Australians as citizens, not suspects.

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