Greens announce significant amendments to data retention regime
The Australian Greens have announced a broad suite of amendments to the data retention regime being legislated by Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten.
"Our amendments address major privacy and security protections that are being stripped away by the Abbott/Shorten surveillance unity ticket," Senator Scott Ludlam, Greens communications spokesperson said.
"Authorities should need a warrant to access bulk metadata and that entire process should have proper, independent oversight. That's what the Greens will move in the Senate today.
"This debate has shown quickly the ALP is willing to fall into step with Tony Abbott, and without these amendments, any Australian who uses a phone or internet device will be caught. The onus is now on the ALP to help fix this bill, not just wave it through the Senate.
"Under our amendments, authorities will need to apply for a warrant in the majority of cases before metadata can be accessed, will only be able to do so in relation to serious crimes, and the role of the public interest advocate will be widened to contest the breadth of these authorisations.
"Our amendments will ensure data is stored in Australia, and is held for three months, rather than two years, before being destroyed. Storing the data in Australia will reduce the risk of hacking and data breaches leading to mass exposure of personal information.
"We are also moving to provide better protections for Australia's journalists, by restoring the wider definition of what constitutes journalism. Our amendments also create protocols to ensure professionals working in areas such as the legal or medical fields are protected, in the event our wider amendments are not successful.
"To improve oversight, we will require the Commonwealth Ombudsman to examine the records of each agency which has access to metadata every six months, and will seek to remove the ability of the Attorney-General to randomly widen the scope of this scheme through regulation, without coming back to Parliament.
"These amendments act on the most serious concerns raised by a wide range of stakeholders when it comes to mandatory mass surveillance. I call on the Opposition to do better than it managed in the House last week," Senator Ludlam concluded.
Australian Greens Senate data retention amendments
1. An amendment stipulating that access to telecommunications data is only permitted if it relates to a "serious contravention" as applies to stored communications warrants.
2. An amendment to extend the Government's journalist/public interest advocate warranted structure to include everyone - law enforcement agencies need a warrant to access anyone's metadata + the public interest advocate scheme applies to everyone.
3. An amendment to extend the Government's journalist/public interest advocate warranted structure to include a class of ‘protected professionals' - law enforcement agencies need a warrant to access anyone's metadata + the public interest advocate scheme applies to everyone.
4. An amendment requiring the data only be held for three months (instead of two years).
5. An amendment removing the ability for the AG to increase the scope of the scheme through regulation (covering service providers, metadata definitions, agencies).
6. An amendment improving record-keeping requirements. Detailed information on metadata access statistics from each agency, as well as the type and age of the data being requested, the offence which the request related to, and any outcome following the request. This information should be included in the annual report of the Attorney-General's Dept.
7. An amendment amending the Government's ‘grants' amendment to state that the Government must make a grant to telcos covering their additional costs to implement the Data Retention legislation, as recommended by the PJCIS.
8. An amendment requiring that all data captured under the scheme be stored in Australia.
9. An amendment to ensure exemptions should be uniform - for example, if one provider has IPTV services exempted then this exemption applies across the industry.
10. An amendment requiring telcos to destroy retained data after the mandatory retention period, unless that data is explicitly required for billing purposes
11. An amendment requiring that metadata obtained under the data retention legislation should be destroyed when it is no longer relevant to the matter under investigation
12. An amendment to explicitly require the Commonwealth Ombudsman to examine the records of each agency which has access to metadata every six months
13. An amendment to stipulate that comment from law enforcement agencies which comment on telcos' data retention implementation plans be made available to the telcos verbatim
14. An amendment to remove the requirement that data be kept for two years after the closure of a customer account. All data should be kept for a defined period only, regardless of whether a customer account is closed or not
15. An amendment to ensure that the definition of ‘journalist' is the one from the Evidence Act.
16. An amendment pertaining to the Attorney-General's ability to modify the service providers, dataset or agencies with regard to access to retained data. Currently the AG's declarations expire after 40 sitting days - we want to bring that down to 4.