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Mandatory data retention not in our interest or the national interest

Following the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001, the Western world reacted impulsively and in the very way we were told we shouldn’t have responded. We started stripping away our personal freedoms and rights.

In Australia, the Howard Government was one of the most ferocious of the Western world.

Despite the limited threat of terrorist attack on Australian soil, Australian people or Australian interests abroad, our Government at that time introduced some of the most regressive anti-terrorism laws. They went even further in eroding our personal freedoms and rights in many respects than the US Patriot Act, which is often considered to be a so-called egregious attack on US citizens’ privacy and personal liberties.

The problem with the laws as they have been proposed is that they don’t demonstrate how existing laws are insufficient. (Though it has to be noted that there are no details and the manner in which they were announced left a lot of information to be filled in). Worst still the current Government has not made the case for why these new laws are needed. The effort to link the tragedy of MH17 with the new laws was transparent and entirely weak; and tasteless to say the least amidst all the uncertainty and misinformation. Even the attempts to use the current tragedies in the Middle East as reasons for their introduction don’t provide the needed impetus of urgency. It appears the only urgency for these laws is because Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies believe current legal requirements, like the need to get a warrant, restrict them too much; makes it ‘too difficult’ to secure prosecutions.

Sadly the Australian Government, without any real reasons, is proposing to introduce a mandatory, society-wide data retention regime. This is about the right to determine for yourself, what you decide to keep private and what you’re happy to share. And it’s about dumping a fundamental principle of our legal system; the presumption of innocence.

Neither the Attorney General nor the Prime Minister understand the laws they’re proposing to introduce; or what the laws ultimately do other than appease the wants of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

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

What they want now is for that information to be retained for two years for ALL Australians, even if you’re not being investigated or considered a person of interest. The mandatory data regime represents a massive invasion of the privacy of all Australians, while subverting the principle of presumption of innocence by treating all of us as potential suspects.

There’s no justification to dump the presumption of innocence just to make it ‘easier’; without the necessary judicial oversight.

And we the public will get the privilege of paying for the Government’s mandatory, society-wide data retention regime as telcos pass the costs of implementing the regime onto customers. It will also mean the creation of massive databases, which will become prime targets for crackers; thereby increasing the costs further as telcos invest in more expensive security options.

But since the Attorney General and Prime Minister have done such a terrible job in telling Australians why laws for a mandatory society-wide data retention regime are necessary, we have an opportunity to make sure they’re dumped before they get to Parliament.

It’s up to people like you and me who want to be treated like citizens, not suspects to stand up and demand our Government drop its plans to massively invade the privacy of all Australians. There is no reason for it and Australian law enforcement and intelligence agencies already have the powers they need to access the data they need for their investigations.

The answer is simple. If our law enforcement and intelligence agencies need our metadata then they can seek a warrant.

Join me and thousands of other Australians and call on the Government to drop its proposed mandatory, society-wide data retention regime:

Check out these great articles about why the Government’s mandatory society-wide data retention regime is bad for us and the nation.

Nine reasons you don’t have “nothing to hide”

Hacking the Grapevine: Data Retention & Protecting Consumer Privacy

No justification for society-wide mandatory data retention scheme

Note: I am a member and Board Director of Electronic Frontiers Australia, which is spearheading the campaign against the Government’s mandatory, society-wide data retention regime.

This was originally published on Alex Schlotzer’s personal blog.

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  1. Samantha Roberts

    It seems pretty obvious that the reason for data retention is to assist with criminal investigations. Many a fact slip investigators that gets found out at a later date that could have solved the crime much earlier \had the data been retained. The retention of data could be then used to vindicate accused person’s of alleged crimes. Although the retention of data could also be seen to be floored as there are always those that swap mobiles or sim cards or even hackers that somehow manage to use other peoples mobile numbers so the data retention would in all honesty be quite useless in that instance.

  2. david linehan

    I have no doubt, none what so ever, Abbott is in regular contact with The Rodent Howard (Brandis description, not mine). he will be receiving all the encouragement he ever needs to go to war, on the ground. We are being methodically softened up, manoeuvred by this latest stunt of Terrorists walking our streets. Secret shadowy figures, already indoctrinated in the ways of murder, terrorism, using bookshops to meet and teach the art of killing.
    Abbott is a madman, there is sufficient proof, he is irrational, a serial liar, obsessed with war machines and uniforms, prancing around in macho poses and undress .

    I cannot believe I am living in a country that is being destroyed in nearly every aspect of lives of ordinary, respectful, caring people. What the hell has brought us to this? While watching our first female prime Minister today, being subjected to the most disgraceful display of attempted humiliation in a Royal Commission ,set-up by this mad insane Abbott with one intention. To seek revenge for being exposed in Parliament and eventually around the world for the filthy gutter manure of a misogynist and bully he is. A Royal Commission under the guise of investigating Union corruption. That alone is so absurd, given the happenings in the NSW ICAC investigation and Abbott and his boss Credlin being revealed as directly involved in corruption.

    Unless the absurdly named ‘Liberal Party’ members ‘take courage and act manfully’ (St Aquinas) and strip Abbott of the leadership, the consequences could be dire.
    All that may seem sensational and over the top. Thousands and thousands on Social Media agree with me.

  3. stephentardrew

    Not one of us ordinary hicks know the exact use of Pine Gap, North West Cape and other US facilities in Australia however we can be rest assured they are deeply tied into the CIA and NSA and what is not to say our meta-data is not already being filtered through the US. Leaves our mob in a position to deny that we are collecting the data. Most of Australia’s data is already processed in the US. Maybe they are doing what they did in the US legalize the process to cover Bush when he got caught out. Obama is no angle when it comes to the devious use of national security. I can’t prove it but got a nasty taste in my mouth. Good old ISIL is giving them the opportunity to tighten their grip even further.

    Hmm makes you wonder when they have been caught hacking Merkel, Udiono and his Wife.

    Can we really trust these immature pseudo James Bonds playing Mr Biggy Boots secretive spies.

    Not a conspiracy theorist but it is just all to murky and secretive for my liking.

    Aren’t we the people the government. Wouldn’t think so would you.

  4. Anne Byam

    This is a really excellent article Alex. One of the best. Thank you.


    David … I so totally agree with your comments. Methodically softened up ?…. well, that’s the aim of a dictator, through and through.. History attests to that, time and time again.

    I hope and believe we are made of much sterner stuff than that though. Why would we be softened up to the degree Abbott and his cretins would prefer … as you said later in your comment ” Thousands and thousands on Social Media agree with me.” And they do. I follow fair amount of social media – and occasionally add a comment myself. It’s a large %age, not in favour of this rabid mob, including disillusioned Liberal followers.

    The Liberal party will NEVER take courage – because they have none – nothing except fear mongering and threat. Will never know the remotest hint of courage, not in the strictest sense of the word – for the good of all.

    I am personally sick to my stomach about it all ….. but I believe the people will ultimately triumph over this disgusting excuse for ‘leadership’ … and it’s not only Abbott, but a large percentage of his front bench. All bloody rabble, dirt to be done away with.

  5. Signit

    Ahem, Chinese walls, joint planning teams, personnel attachments and secondments, OS operational and training programmes, transitions between commercial-contract and official-service roles, threat level adjustment rationales, etcetera, etcetera are not subjects of public interest, are not newsworthy, and are not up for discussion: the metametadata are always secure(d) at base hq.

  6. billly moir

    I am of the old school and privacy ended WITH. Perfect, David, I listened to Gillard and she, once again put a lying, vindictive man into perspective. I despair of her, little billy and labor for not exposing his economic lies and nastiness over the 3 years of his constant negativity. Where are you, albo and your NO, NO, NO!

  7. Matters Not

    From afar, the evidence suggests Australia is now a land of terrorists and endless memorials to the fallen. Seems like all Abbott has in his kit bag are ‘distractions’.

  8. mars08

    Matters Not…. I really, really, REALLY hope that, in true Dumb Dumb fashion, our dear leader’s lack of common sense causes him to overcook the chest-thumping and fear-mongering angle. Subtle he aint….

  9. Alex Schlotzer

    Anne Byam: I’m really glad you liked my article. It’s a shame that we have to keep fighting these kinds of attacks on our rights.

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