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  1. Kaye Lee

    Malcolm Turnbull, October 2012: Free at last! Or freedom lost? Liberty in the digital age: 2012 Alfred Deakin Lecture

    While the purported intent is that only metadata – data about data – will be available to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, there is no explanation of how metadata will be distinguished from data (the two are often commingled, as in the ‘subject’ line of emails), why both would not be readily available once a message has been handed over and decrypted, and indeed how readily in an IP world it is possible to keep a record of the time, date, size, sender, receiver and possibly subject of an email without also retaining the contents.

    Nor has there been an explanation of what costs and benefits have been estimated for this sweeping and intrusive new power, how these were arrived at, what (if any) cost was ascribed to its chilling effect on free speech, and whether any gains in national security or law enforcement asserted as justification for the changes will be monitored and verified should they be enacted.

    ASIO’s submission to the parliamentary inquiry considering the discussion paper argues that the type of information it seeks is not very different from what it has hitherto been able to obtain from telcos who retain details of telephone calls (but not the content) for the purpose of billing. In an IP world where charging is done on the basis of total bandwidth utilization, ASIO argues these details are not required by the telcos or web companies and so they can be deleted.

    The German Federal Constitutional Court has recently struck down a similar data retention law noting that “meta-data” may be used to draw conclusions about not simply the content of the messages, but the social and political affiliations, personal preferences, inclinations and weaknesses of the individual concerned.[15]

    Leaving aside the central issue of the right to privacy, there are formidable practical objections. The carriers, including Telstra, have argued that the cost of complying with a new data retention regime would be very considerable with the consequence of higher charges for their customers.

    And what is to happen with data stored offshore? Google hosts much, if not most, of the relevant data for Australians. But none of it is hosted in Australia. Much of our voice and video calls occur now over IP services, like Skype or Google Chat. Is their customer metadata stored in Australia? Almost certainly not.

    Google currently permanently deletes emails or Youtube videos from their server once the customer deletes it. Search logs are rendered anonymous after nine months. It would be utterly impractical, and possibly unlawful, for Google to discriminate against customers from Australia and treat them differently from any others.

    And finally – why do we imagine that the criminals of the greatest concern to our security agencies will not be able to use any of numerous available means to anonymise their communications or indeed choose new services that are not captured by legislated data retention rules?

    Without wanting to pre-empt the conclusions of the Parliamentary Committee, I must record my very grave misgivings about the proposal. It seems to be heading in precisely the wrong direction. Surely as we reflect on the consequences of the digital shift from a default of forgetting to one of perpetual memory we should be seeking to restore as far as possible the individual’s right not simply to their privacy but to having the right to delete that which they have created in the same way as can be done in the analogue world.

  2. Rob Marsh

    Thanks Kaye Lee, it’s saddening to see Turnbull take such an about face with regards to this issue, and even worse is the untethered and ungrounded popular support for him amongst people my age, who seem to regard him as being a panacea to the ills of the Liberal party, almost as “one of us”.

    Frankly it smacks of good PR to me.

  3. Kaye Lee

    Malcolm’s principles have always been for sale but how he can hope to get away with it is beyond me. He argues one thing in opposition and then the diametrically opposed view in government.

  4. Adam D

    Thanks for the letter… have sent to all Labor members in House of Reps. Received a response from Terri Butler trying to justify Labor’s plan to go along with the legislation…

    “Those of us in the opposition are faced with a choice: to do nothing and allow the current regime to continue to operate largely unchecked, or to try to reach agreement with the government for more security and scrutiny. Those appear to be the only two choices available in the present parliament…

    I’d prefer that some action be taken to regulate the existing and extensive warrant-less access…

    This is a government bill. We have worked to improve it, and we’ve won some significant concessions. Without that work, everyone from the Qld police to the RSPCA would continue to have largely unregulated access to people’s metadata. It seems to me to have been the responsible course to seek those improvements rather than to allow the present situation to continue as it had been for many years.”

    Terri Butler

  5. Rob Marsh

    Adam D, how are we supposed to believe that we’re being represented by these people when they don’t even have the backbone to strongly stand by their public?

    I mean, “we have worked to improve it”? An ethically responsible opposition would have shut the parliament down until the bill was scrapped altogether.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Perhaps I have missed something. Terri did not mention data retention for two years. She talks about warrantless data – as far as I know the only concession has been for them to have to get a warrant to look at journalist’s data. They can still look at the source’s (or anyone else’s) data without a warrant.

    “Senator Ludlam said he would be more comfortable if warrants were required for every instance in which authorities sought access to metadata.”

    Brandis says “It’s about ensuring our security and law enforcement agencies continue to have access to metadata, which is critical in nearly all terrorism and serious criminal investigations.”

    They already DO. Two-year old metadata won’t stop a terrorist attack. It might help identify who was involved but overseas experience indicates otherwise. Metadata retention has not lead to more successful prosecutions.

  7. Kaye Lee

    Telstra has warned the upfront costs of building new systems would be “significant” and it wants taxpayer compensation.

    Mr Abbott has previously acknowledged that storing the information required would likely cost $400 million a year – you can bet it will be more since we will be funding it.

    Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014
    Introduced to parliament on October 30 and redrafted on the advice of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (which tabled its report on February 27). The legislation will:

    •Require telecommunications companies to retain customer’s phone and computer meta-data for 2 years
    •Define which types of data must be retained, such as phone numbers, length of phone calls, email addresses and the time a message was sent, but not the content of phone calls or emails and explicity exclude internet browsing
    •Detail which agencies are able to access the data
    •Give securtiy agencies access to the data when they can make a case that it is “reasonably necessary” to an investigation
    •Still require security agencies to obtain a warrant before accessing the actual content of messages or conversations
    •Introduce an independent oversight mechanism, allowing the Commonwealth Ombudsman access to agency records, in a bid to boost privacy protections
    •Give the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security oversight of the use of metadata by the AFP and ASIO
    •The Government is negotiating with telcos about who will pay for the new system

    I hope they have more detail than that but I fear not. Without seeing the actual amendment detail they would be mad to vote for it. Those were recommendations…they need to see the legislation.

  8. Adam D

    Here’s the complete response from Terri Butler…

    Thanks so much for your email.

    Telcos have been giving access to telecommunications data without warrants for many years.

    You probably know there were about 500,000 incidents of warrant-less access to stored metadata last year, up from approx 330,000 the preceding year.

    Those of us in the opposition are faced with a choice: to do nothing and allow the current regime to continue to operate largely unchecked, or to try to reach agreement with the government for more security and scrutiny. Those appear to be the only two choices available in the present parliament.

    As you may also know I have expressed concerns about the legislation.

    My submission on this issue, to the parliamentary committee, is on my website:

    I have also published an opinion piece:

    Since I wrote those pieces we have received the committee report:

    We have since received government amendments which make significant concessions. And yesterday afternoon we received a further significant concession, in relation to protection for journalists.

    I am concerned about the lack of regulation in the current regime.

    The bill and amendments would impose greater regulation and oversight of those incidents of warrant-less oversight, which would be desirable.

    For example the bill and amendments would:
    – require security and encryption,
    – make sure the privacy act will apply,
    – require more detailed reporting,
    – put limits on use in civil proceedings,
    – limit the agencies that can obtain access,
    – increase the requirement for there to be reasonable grounds, and for justification and proportionality, and
    – provide for much greater oversight by the Ombudsman.

    Each of those measures represents an improvement on the broad and largely unregulated data retention and access scheme that has been in place since 1979. I’d prefer that some action be taken to regulate the existing and extensive warrant-less access.

    This is a government bill. We have worked to improve it, and we’ve won some significant concessions. Without that work, everyone from the Qld police to the RSPCA would continue to have largely unregulated access to people’s metadata. It seems to me to have been the responsible course to seek those improvements rather than to allow the present situation to continue as it had been for many years.

    Terri Butler

  9. Mark Needham

    Back in the 70’s, if the Company I worked for, wanted a new address, for a non payer of rent, if that person was anywhere on the government books, state or federal, a brown envelope would have the new address within days.
    Me, I have no problems, storing any data at all. Nothing to hide, and I fear no one.

  10. Rafe Falkiner

    Notice to the Labor Party. You support this shit …… loose hundreds of thousands of votes & if your precious Power means so much to you you will have to form a coalition to defeat the coalition because that is the only way they got into power…. You all make me sick. START BY REPRESENTING THE PEOPLE OF AUSTRALIA. IF YOU CAN’T BRING YOUR MASSIVE EGOES TO DO THAT THEN PISS OFF.

  11. paul walter

    Agree, Rafe.

    You expect no better from the mad uncle Tories, but Labor, better informed and educated, you expect exponentially more from. It’s the disappointment with their timidity, time and time again..

    As I’ve just said elsewhere, “Labor, GROW SOME, on issues of principle”.

  12. mark delmege

    This is petty fascism almost on a par with the so called socialist government in France under Hollande with his wish to virtually ban dissent. We need a Peoples Government not suits who represent the National Security State.

  13. crypt0

    Rafe Falkiner … I second that motion.
    And, may I say, very eloquently put !

  14. Kaye Lee


    “Me, I have no problems, storing any data at all. Nothing to hide, and I fear no one.”

    The Dutch Government’s thoroughness in collecting personal religious and racial information for the purpose of their census enabled the Nazis to murder a much higher percentage (73%) of Holland’s Jews than those of Belgium (40%) or France (25%).

    Not that that could ever happen again……right?

  15. paul walter

    At least one of the links provided was from the ABC and mentioned Abbott trying to cancel a committee meeting for later in the week into the issue.

    Do others find this news disturbing?

    For legislation as intrusive and potentially damaging to democracy through injury done a free fifth estate,let alone invasion of ordinarypeople’s privacy, I’d have thought no stone would be left unturned, to ensure no harm comes of such changes

  16. poindexta

    A case of the right leading the right. Would be good if all the “right” factions split-off from their parties, form a new RWNJ party to make it easier for the electorate know who the real terrorists are.

  17. Sir ScotchMistery

    The whole process makes us suspects in every crime that can be committed yet the security agencies are yet to identify a single example of stopping a crime by use of metadata.

    This is about the TPP and managing illegal downloads by average Joe’s so Australia can suck up to the USA.

    Our government and the current opposition are worthless and this makes the case for 30 independents in the house.

  18. stephentardrew

    Spot on Sir ScotchMistery:

    More chance of dying of cancer: being run over: being taken by a shark etc. than being attacked by terrorists. Orwell gave us fair warning. The US will willingly transfer their determination to vilify whistle blowers onto the rest of us through their dystopian TPP and Bank of International Settlement. This is one of the the most undemocratic and corrupt organisation in the world. They make terrorist look like beginners in the graft and corruption market place. Remember terrorism comes in many forms often cloaked in false respectability and political double talk.

    How many of the GFC financial terrorists went to jail? Well it happens to be zilch, three fifths of five eights, bugger all. Now you see there is apparent legitimate, and obviously acceptable, financial terrorism going on leading to the hardship and suffering of millions of people in which the powers that be just turn their backs and snigger in condescension at the lot of the miserable masses.

    These vampire squid, so elegantly exposed by Matt Taibbi, then invade countries selling arms to their enemies then scream out we need to go to war to protect democracy. Seems more like corporate fascism to me. Democracy vanished long ago.

    All the way with USA corporate fascisms brought to you by GOP and Democrats. Be careful Australia what exactly you are wishing for.

    Given this sordid history it pays to be skeptical of left and right these days though Labor did have the wherewithal to get us through the GFC.

    Since then its been all the way down the austerity plug hole brought to you by those doyens of moral probity the L-NP financial terrorists.

  19. stephentardrew

    You Royal Administrator-ship think I got sucked out of existence. May have found a home in with the spam man.

  20. Kaye Lee

    Found it

  21. Sir Ossis

    Exactly why do both major parties want to do this? Clearly the terrorism/pedophilia thing is a furphy, so who gains what?
    It is hugely unpopular with voters, with good reason. It is very expensive. It will be abused exponentially in future years.

    Is it just to allow Hollywood to go after Australian downloaders of movies/music? Surely not. People have been recording off television for decades and copying music for even longer.

    Bravo to the Greens for providing conscionable opposition. You will get my vote hereafter. I’ve had enough of our rubbish major parties.

  22. Mark Needham

    Kaye Lee,

    “The Dutch Government’s thoroughness in collecting personal…………………

    I didn’t know that, thanks for the information. What is your source for those facts, so I can have a good read.

  23. Pingback: Is Gina Rinehart a Terrorist Under Our Own Laws? | The Useful Idiot

  24. Pingback: Is Gina Rinehart a Terrorist Under Our Own Laws? March 18, 2015 – Written by: Rob Marsh | winstonclose

  25. Harquebus

    All done.

    senator.lastname AT

    Representatives. AT

  26. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Rob Marsh. I sent this letter to Senator Brandis and Russell Broadbent, Member for McMillan.

  27. Harquebus

    A couple more on the subject.

    “Remember too, that you, the average internet user, will pay for this data to be retained. ISPs and telecommunications providers will have to store the data and pay part of the storage cost; that part will be passed on to the consumer.
    How do we benefit? No country has found that data retention helps to any significant extent in solving crimes, or tracking down undesirables. Else, why doesn’t the US government do it?”

    “Labor MPs used the first substantive parliamentary ‘debate’ on data retention to congratulate themselves on their hard work in ensuring that the government’s legislation will be passed.”

    Onya Labor. Nothing like standing up for our freedoms and liberties eh? (sarc)

  28. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    ditto, ditto, ditto. (I don’t even bother wondering, if Labor will speak out in defence of us anymore.)

  29. Harquebus

    I am sick to death of Labor being the first to erode or the first to stand behind those that do erode our freedoms and liberties. Lives lost in sacrifice so that we could have them in the first place.
    Small minded and short sighted the lot of them.

  30. Mick

    Hi all ,
    Firstly being an older generation person I don’t agree with these new laws being passed. I’m not a very tech savvy person so at the time of signing a phone plan for an iPhone I had no idea about meta data retention and (what it could be used for) at no time was this ever mentioned whilst I was being signed up.

    So my question about this is,

    would I be right in assuming that the metadata retention laws and associated costs that will be passed on to the consumer would constitute a change in contract conditions signed prior to the date the laws were passed.

    According to the terms and conditions of my contract , any changes made to the contract previously agreed upon by myself, my telco must notify me in writing of these new changes and offer me the chance to renew and or cancel my current contract. Considering that I agreed to a set monthly cost and that I didn’t agree to the data retention or the extra fees that may be associated with it.

    Surely they are breaking or changing the conditions of the existing contract if they think that I or anyone else on a existing contract for that matter will just pay more than what the agreed plan is ?
    Also there is no mention of metadata in the contract I retained either.

    Anyway just a thought ?

    PS. No I don’t have anything to hide I’m just an ordinary bloke whose sick and tired of every company and now our government wanting to keep my private data. F-OFF !!!!

  31. Pingback: Tertangala » Metadata Retention and what it means for you

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